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WILLIAM    MAKEPEACE   THACKERAY 


BY  THE   SAME   AUTHOR 

THE  THACKERAY  COUNTRY 

VICTORIAN  NOVELISTS 

BATH  UNDER  BEAU  NASH 

BRIGHTON 

"THE  FIRST  GEORGE" 

"FARMER  GEORGE" 

"THE  FIRST  GENTLEMAN  OF  EUROPE" 

THE  BEAUX  OF  THE  REGENCY 

EDITOR  OF 

MACMILLAN'S  EDITION  OF  THACKERAY'S 

WORKS 
"STRAY  PAPERS."     By  W.   M.  Thackeray 

WITH    HELEN    MELVILLE 
LONDON'S  LURE  :  AN  ANTHOLOGY 


"if 


(  fiv  D^rmjsswn  of  M'a.wr  IVUJj/uThH  Lamb  art.  J 


: :  WILLIAM : : 

MAKEPEACE 
THACKERAY 

A  BIOGRAPHY  INCLUDING  HITHERTO 
UNCOLLECTED  LETTERS  &  SPEECHES 
&  A  BIBLIOGRAPHY  OF  1300  ITEMS 
BY  LEWIS  MELVILLE  <a  <S  ^  <B  <B 
WITH  2  PHOTOGRAVURE  PORTRAITS 
©•NUMEROUS  OTHER  ILLUSTRATIONS 
IN    TWO    VOLUMES— VOLUME    ONE 


JOHN    LANE,   THE    BODLEY    HEAD 

VIGO    STREET,    LONDON,    W.    MCMX 


Plymouth:  wm.  brendon  and  son,  ltd.,  printers 


ETBRARY 

XJraYERSITV  OF  CMAl 
SAm'A  BAliHAih 


TO 

MY  FELLOW-MEMBERS 

OF 
THE    TITMARSH    CLUB 


PREFACE 

TEN  years  have  passed  since  I  published  a 
biography  of  Thackeray.  This  has  been 
out  of  print  for  a  long  time,  and  Messrs. 
Hutchinson  and  Company  have  generously 
restored  to  me  their  rights  in  that  book.  The  present 
Life,  however,  is  not  a  reprint,  nor  a  revised  edition 
of  the  previous  one,  but  an  entirely  new  work,  the 
writing  of  which,  together  with  the  collateral  reading, 
has  occupied  the  leisure  of  several  years.  Though  I 
am  only  too  well  aware  how  much  better  the  task 
might  have  been  carried  out,  at  least  I  can  claim  that 
this  is  an  improvement  upon  the  earlier  work. 

''When  a  man  has  exercised  a  large  influence  on 
the  minds  of  his  contemporaries,  the  world  requires  to 
know  whether  his  own  actions  have  corresponded  with 
his  teaching,  and  whether  his  moral  and  personal 
character  entitled  him  to  confidence.  This  is  not  idle 
curiosity  :  it  is  a  legitimate  demand."  So  says  Froude 
in  his  preface  to  the  life  of  Carlyle,  and  there  are  few 
who  will  care  to  dispute  the  point.  When  my  bio- 
graphy of  Thackeray  was  published  in  1899,  there 
was  some  discussion  as  to  whether  it  should  have 
been  written,  for  it  was  said  that  Thackeray  had 
desired  there  should  be  no  biography  of  him.  It  was 
agreed  by  most  critics,  however,  that  such  an  injunc- 
tion could  only  be  held  to  bind  his  relatives;  and,  we 


X  PREFACE 

know,  those  closely  connected  with  him  have  inter- 
preted this  in  the  letter  rather  than  the  spirit  of  the 
injunction.  It  is  true  that  there  has  been  no  formal 
biography,  but  the  delightful  Introductions  to  the 
Biographical  Edition  of  his  works  by  his  daughter, 
Lady  Ritchie,  so  nearly  approach  this  (except  in  the 
matter  of  arrangement)  that  Mr.  Clement  Shorter,  who 
has  had  them  bound  up  together,  says,  and  with 
reason,  that  he  may  fairly  claim  to  possess  an  author- 
ised Life  of  Thackeray  by  his  daughter.  It  is  not 
only  Lady  Ritchie,  however,  who  has  drawn  aside  the 
veil.  Sir  Leslie  Stephen,  Thackeray's  son-in-law, 
wrote  a  memoir,  and  Thackeray's  relatives  and  con- 
nections by  marriage,  the  Rev.  St.  John  Thackeray, 
Mr.  Richard  Bedingfield,  and  Canon  Irvine,  have 
jotted  down  their  memories  of  the  great  man  ;  while 
his  friends,  the  Brookfields  and  the  Baxters,  have 
printed  his  letters  to  them.  Indeed,  most  of  his 
friends  have  at  one  time  or  another  given  their  re- 
collections of  him  to  the  world,  and  among  these  may 
be  mentioned  Mr.  J.  F.  Boyes,  Dr.  John  Brown,  the 
Misses  Corkran,  Mr.  Eyre  Crowe,  the  Rev.  Whitwell 
Elwin,  Mr.  James  T.  Fields  and  his  wife,  Mr.  Blanchard 
Jerrold,  Mr.  Cordy  Jeaffreson,  Mr.  Locker-Lampson, 
Mr.  Herman  Merivale,  Dr.  Merriman,  the  Hon.  W.  B. 
Reed,  and  Anthony  Trollope,  Since,  then,  Thackeray's 
relatives  and  friends  have  recounted  everything  they 
could  remember  about  him  and  have  printed  most  of 
his  letters  that  have  been  preserved,  a  stranger  can 
scarcely  be  expected  to  interpret  Thackeray's  wish  more 
stringently  than  those  who  knew  him  well.  I  think, 
since  it  is  upon  these  revelations  that  my  book  is  in  the 
main  based,  my  position  requires  no  defence — though. 


PREFACE  xi 

if  defence  is  necessary,  it  is  to  be  found  in  Thackeray's 
words  : — 

We  all  want  to  know  details  regarding  the  men  who 
have  achieved  famous  feats,  whether  of  war,  or  wit, 
or  eloquence,  or  endurance,  or  knowledge.  .  .  .  We 
want  to  see  this  man  who  has  amused  and  charmed 
us  ;  who  has  been  our  friend,  or  given  us  hours  of 
pleasant  companionship  and  pleasant  thought.^ 

I  have  endeavoured  to  write  a  straightforward 
narrative  of  the  novelist's  life,  and  throughout  to 
follow  what  would  certainly  have  been  the  great  man's 
wish,  that  truth  should  be  told,  and  the  scars  painted 
in  the  portrait. 

Thackeray  liked  to  read  of  the  lives  of  literary  men — 

If  the  secret  history  of  books  could  be  written,  and 
the  author's  private  thoughts  noted  down  alongside  of 
his  story,  how  many  insipid  volumes  would  become 
interesting,  and  dull  tales  excite  the  reader  !^ 

His  stories  are  frequently  autobiographical  ;  he  often 
drew  upon  his  experiences,  notably  in  "  Pendennis"  and 
*' Philip";  so  that  the  reader,  knowing  his  life,  must 
certainly  find  an  added  pleasure  when  reading  the 
novels.  His  departure  from  India,  his  arrival  in 
England,  his  early  school-life,  the  Charterhouse  days, 
Larkbeare,  Cambridge,  his  misfortunes  in  London, 
his  life  in  the  Paris  studios,  the  newspapers  he 
was  connected  with,  the  people  he  met,  the  places  he 
visited,  are  all  reproduced  under  thin  disguises.  At 
the  same  time  it  has  to  be  borne  in  mind  that  his  books 
are  no  mere  transcript  from  his  life,  and,  while  often 
illustrating  an  incident  in  the  novelist's  career  by  an 
extract  from  his  writings,  I  have  been  careful  to  do  so 

'   On  a  Joke  I  once  heard  from  the  late  Thomas  Hood. 


xii  PREFACE 

only  when   there  is  every  reason  to  believe  that  the 
passages  quoted  are  indeed  autobiographical. 

There  is  no  lack  of  material  for  the  biographer  of 
Thackeray,  for,  as  has  been  said,  a  great  number 
of  his  letters  have  been  printed  as  well  as  the  recollec- 
tions of  many  who  knew  him.  The  primary  authorities, 
of  course,  are  Lady  Ritchie's  Biographical  Introductions 
and  Sir  Leslie  Stephen's  memoir  ;  and  only  next  in 
importance  to  these  is  the  monograph  by  Mr.  Herman 
Merivale  and  Sir  Frank  T.  Marzials.  Mr.  John 
Camden  Hotten's  book  on  "Thackeray,  the  Humourist 
and  the  Man  of  Letters"  is  a  useful  compilation.  Sir 
William  Hunter  has  written  of  the  novelist's  forbears 
in  "The  Thackerays  in  India";  Mr.  J.  F.  Boyes  has 
given  his  impression  of  Thackeray  at  the  Charterhouse ; 
and  the  Rev.  Whitwell  Elwin,  who  also  treats  of  this 
early  period,  carries  on  the  narrative  to  the  time  when 
Thackeray  was  in  search  of  a  profession.  Thackeray 
in  a  letter  to  Lewes  recalled  memories  of  his  stay  at 
Weimar;  and  "The  Paris  Sketch  Book"  and  the  con- 
tributions to  the  Corsair  and  the  Britannia  contain 
first-hand  accounts  of  the  time  spent  at  Paris.  Mr.  C.  P. 
Johnson  has  outlined  the  early  years  of  Thackeray 
as  a  writer,  and  further  particulars  of  the  period  are  to 
be  found  in  Thackeray's  letters  to  Edward  FitzGerald, 
Lord  Houghton,  Macvey  Napier,  and  Professor  Aytoun, 
in  the  autobiographies  of  Sir  Henry  Cole  and  Henry 
Vizetelly,  in  Mr.  Fitzpatrick's  "Life  of  Charles  Lever," 
etc.  Mr.  M.  H.  Spielmann  has  written  of  Thackeray's 
connection  with  Punch;  and  for  the  years  after  the  pub- 
lication of  "Vanity  Fair"  there  are  Thackeray's  letters 
to  the  Brookfields,  the  correspondence  of  Charlotte 
Bronte,  the  Carlyles,  and  the  Brownings,  and  memoirs 


PREFACE  xiii 

too  numerous  to  mention.  There  are  records  of  the 
American  trips  in  Thackeray's  letters  to  the  Hon. 
William  B.  Reed  and  the  Baxters,  in  Eyre  Crowe's 
''With  Thackeray  in  America,"  the  biographies  and 
correspondence  of  Prescott,  Ticknor,  Motley,  Bancroft, 
Longfellow,  James  T.  Fields,  Lester  Wallack,  etc.  ; 
and  much  interesting  information  has  been  collected 
by  General  James  Grant  Wilson  in  "  Thackeray  in  the 
United  States. "  Thackeray's  connection  with  the  Corn- 
hill  Magazine  has  been  told  by  Lady  Ritchie  and 
Mr.  George  M.  Smith  in  articles  entitled  respectively. 
The  First  Number  of  the  Cornhill  and  Our  Birth 
and  Parentage.  A  full  list  of  authorities  is  printed  at 
the  end  of  this  work. 

Since  the  publication  of  my  earlier  work  on  Thackeray 
I  have  received  from  correspondents  personally  un- 
known to  me  many  letters  containing  information  and 
suggestions,  and  I  take  this  opportunity  to  tender  my 
thanks  to  these  gentlemen,  among  whom  I  may  mention 
Dr.  Marcus  P.  Hatfield,  of  Chicago,  Mr.  Leonard  L. 
Mackall,  of  Jena,  and  Mr.  W.  Reid  Lewis,  of  Bedford. 
I  must  also  express  my  indebtedness  for  assistance 
kindly  rendered  by  Mr.  Thomas  Seccombe  and  the  Rev. 
Henry  W.  Clark,  both  of  whom  have  read  the  proofs  of 
this  book;  Mr.  Frederick  S.  Dickson,  and  Mr.  Walter 
Jerrold.  His  Excellency  the  American  Ambassador  (the 
Hon.  Whitelaw  Reid)  has  kindly  permitted  me  to  quote 
a  passage  from  a  speech  recently  delivered  by  him  at  the 
Titmarsh  Club  ;  and  Sir  Frank  T.  Marzials  has  most 
generously  allowed  me  to  make  use  of  the  monograph 
on  Thackeray  in  the  "Great  Writers'"  Series,  written 
by  him  in  collaboration  with  the  late  Herman  Merivale. 

For  permission   to  insert  letters  written  by  Thack- 


xiv  PREFACE 

eray  I  am  indebted  to  Sir  Theodore  Martin  and 
Messrs.  William  Blackwood  and  Sons  (two  letters 
from  Sir  Theodore  Martin's  ''  Life  of  W.  E. 
Aytoun "),  Messrs.  William  Blackwood  and  Sons  (a 
letter  from  Mrs.  Oliphant's  ''  Annals  of  a  Publishing 
House,"  and  another  from  Anthony  TroUope's  "Auto- 
biography"), Mr.  M.  H.  Spielmann  (a  letter  from 
"The  Hitherto  Unidentified  Contributions  of  W.  M. 
Thackeray  to  Pimck^^),  Mr.  John  Murray  (a  letter  from 
"The  Correspondence  of  Abraham  Hayward  "),  Lady 
Reid,  Lord  Crewe,  and  Messrs.  Cassell  and  Co.,  Ltd. 
(three  letters  from  Sir  T.  Wemyss  Reid's  "  Life  of  Lord 
Houghton "),  and  Mr.  W.  Lawrence  Bradbury  (two 
letters  in  his  possession).  Mr.  Clement  Shorter  has 
kindly  allowed  me  to  quote  from  "The  Brontes:  Life 
and  Letters,"  and  Messrs.  Macmillan  and  Co.,  Ltd., 
from  Lady  Ritchie's  "Chapters  from  Some  Memoirs" 
and  "The  Letters  of  Edward  FitzGerald."  Mr.  S. 
Causley,  the  owner  of  the  only  known  copy  of  the  rare 
pamphlet  "  Proceedings  at  the  Thirteenth  Anniversary 
Festival  of  The  Royal  General  Theatrical  Fund,  1858," 
has  been  good  enough  to  permit  me  to  copy  the  hitherto 
unreprintedspeechof  Thackeray  contained  therein  ;  and 
Major  William  H.  Lambert,  of  Philadelphia,  has  most 
generously  had  photographed  for  insertion  in  this  book 
four  portraits  of  Thackeray  in  his  possession,  never 
before  published.  In  the  Foreword  to  the  Bibliography 
I  acknowledge  further  debts  of  gratitude  for  informa- 
tion given  me  in  connection  with  that  section. 

LEWIS   MELVILLE 

Salcombe,  Harpenden,  Herts, 
June  30,  1909. 


CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Preface ix 

Contents xv 

Illustrations xxiii 

CHAPTER   I 

INTRODUCTORY 

The  Thackeray  family — John  de  Thackwra — William  de  Thackwra 
—  Robert  Thackra  —  Walter  Thackeray  of  Hampsthwaite — 
Elias  Thackeray  —  Archdeacon  Thackeray  —  his  sons  and 
daughters — the  Rev.  Elias  Thackeray,  Vicar  of  Dundalk — 
and  Thackeray's  tribute  to  him  in  "The  Irish  Sketch  Book" — 
the  Archdeacon's  fifth  son — and  his  family — William  Make- 
peace Thackeray,  grandfather  of  the  novelist — the  Thack- 
erays  a  typical  Anglo-Indian  family — the  novelist's  uncles 
and  aunts — his  cousin  Sir  Richmond  Shakespear— Richmond 
Thackeray  and  Anne  Becher,  the  novelist's  parents — the 
birth  of  Thackeray       .......  Pages  3-12 

CHAPTER   n 

CHILDHOOD  (1811-1S22) 

Death  of  Richmond  Thackeray — Thackeray  and  Richmond  Shake- 
spear sent  to  England,  1817  —  Thackeray's  recollections  of 
India — his  subsequent  acquaintance  with  Anglo-Indians — his 
mother's  teachings — their  affection  for  each  other — her  marriage 
with  Major  Carmichael-Smyth — Major  and  Mrs.  Carmichael- 
Smyth  return  to  England,  1821 — Thackeray's  journey  from  India 
to  England — he  sees  Napoleon  at  St.  Helena — stays  with  his 
guardian,  Peter  Moore,  at  Hadley — and  afterwards  with  Mrs. 
Becher,  at  Fareham — goes  to  school  at  Southampton — his  un- 
happiness  there — sent  to  Dr.  Turner's  school  at  Chiswick — 
Walpole  House  and  Miss  Pinkerton's  Academy  .         .  13-20 

3{V 


XVI  CONTENTS 

CHAPTER   III 

THE   CHARTERHOUSE   (1822-1828) 

Thackeray  goes  to  the  Charterhouse,  1822 — Dr.  John  Russell — 
Dr,  Russell  portrayed  in  "  Pendcnnis  " — Thackeray  unhappy  at 
the  Charterhouse — at  the  Rev.  Edward  Penny's  house  in  Wilder- 
ness Row — becomes  a  day-boy  and  lives  at  Mrs.  Boyes's — his 
studies — his  schoolfellows — his  love  of  reading-,  and  especially 
of  novel-reading — first  attempts  to  write — his  earliest  verses — 
his  passion  for  caricature — description  of  him  as  a  schoolboy — 
his  nose  broken  in  a  fight — he  creates  "  Grey  Friars  " — visits  his 
old  school — Thackeray  the  great  apostle  of  "tipping" — the 
Poor  Brethren  of  the  Charterhouse — a  prototype  of  Colonel 
Newcome — Thackeray's  description  of  Grey  Friars  in  "The 
Newcomes"  ....         ....        Pages  21-^1 

CHAPTER    IV 

LARKBEARE  AND  CAMBRIDGE  (1828-1830) 

Thackeray  leaves  the  Charterhouse — stays  with  his  mother  and 
stepfather  at  Larkbeare,  Ottery  St.  Mary  —  prepares  for 
Cambridge — Larkbeare  and  Ottery  St.  Mary  in  "Pendennis" — 
"Irish  Melody" — Captain  Costigan  and  Miss  Fotheringay — at 
Cambridge  —  Thackeray's  good  intentions — his  studies — his 
amusements — ^his  views  on  history — and  on  Shelley — speech  at 
the  Union  on  Napoleon — assists  in  the  formation  of  an  Essay 
Club  —  contributes  to  the  Sjtob  —  "  Timbuctoo  "  —  "  Rams- 
bottom  Papers  " — his  friendships — Richard  Monckton  Milnes — 
Rev.  W.  H.  Brookfield  and  his  wife — Edward  Fitzgerald — 
Alfred  Tennyson  .........  42-67 

CHAPTER   V 

AM  RHEIN  (1 830-1 83 1) 

Thackeray  goes  abroad — Paris — Coblenz — Godesberg — Cologne 
— Weimar — Weimar  in  "Vanity  Fair" — his  flirtations — Doro- 
thea and  her  prototype — his  opinions  of  the  German  writers — 
Mme.  Goethe— "Grand  Old  Goethe"  ....  68-80 

CHAPTER   VI 

THE    TEMPLE   (1831-1832) 

Thackeray  a  student  of  Middle  Temple — chambers  at  No.  2,  Brick 
Court — writes  of  the  literary  associations  of  the  Temple — the. 


CONTENTS  xvii 

Temple  in  his  writings — loses  money  at  cards — the  original  of 
Deuceace — chambers  at  No.  lo,  Crown  Office  Row — work  and 
play- — dislike  of  the  law — goes  to  Cornwall  to  canvass  for  Charles 
Buller — comes  of  age — abandons  the  law — goes  to  Paris — loses 
his  patrimony Pages  81-90 

CHAPTER  VII 

IN  SEARCH   OF   A   PROFESSION  (1832-1836) 

Thackeray's  thoughts  incline  to  literature — Becomes  proprietor 
and  editor  of  the  National  Standard — his  contributions  to  that 
paper — the  failure  of  the  National  Standard — the  story  of  the 
venture  related  in  "  Lovel  the  Widower" — he  proposes  to  be- 
come a  painter — and  studies  at  Paris — his  fondness  for  Paris — 
his  first  visit  to  that  city — Eyre  Evans  Crowe  and  his  family — 
Thackeray  on  the  artist's  life  at  Paris — abandons  painting  for 
caricature — "Flore  et  Zephyr" — offers  to  illustrate  "Pickwick" 
— "Mr.  Pickwick's  lucky  escape" — illustrates  most  of  his  own 
books — aware  of  the  limitations  of  his  art — Charlotte  Bronte  on 
Thackeray  as  illustrator       .......        gi-iii 

CHAPTER  VIII 

MARRIAGE   (1836-1840) 

Major  Carmichael-Smyth  founds  the  Cottstittdiorial  newspaper — 
and  appoints  Thackeray  Paris  Correspondent  —  Thackeray 
marries  Isabella  Getkin  Creagh  Shawe  at  Paris — works  on 
GalignanVs  Messenger — happy  days — "Bouillabaisse" — sum- 
moned to  London  to  manage  the  Cojistitiitional — the  failure  of 
the  Constitutional — Thackeray  and  his  wife  stay  with  his 
mother — takes  a  house  in  Great  Coram  Street,  Bloomsbury — 
the  birth  of  his  two  eldest  daughters — Bloomsbury  in  his  books 
— the  Foundling  hospital — his  fondness  for  children — the  British 
Museum — "Going  to  see  a  Man  Hanged" — his  third  daughter 
born — his  wife's  illness — the  compulsory  separation — the  happi- 
ness of  his  brief  married  life — his  love  for  his  children        .       1 12-128 

CHAPTER    IX 

IN   GRUB   STREET  (1837-1846) 

Writes  for  the  Times — and  for  Erasers  Magazine — his  earliest  con- 
tributions io  Fraser''s  Magazine — the  authorship  of  "Elizabeth 
Brownrigge " — and  the  resemblance  between  that  story  and 
"Catherine" — "  Fashnable  Fax  and  Polite  Annygoats  " — Mr. 
Yellowplush's  other  papers — strikes  for  higher  pay — his  qualifi- 

i.-b 


xviii  CONTENTS 

cations  as  a  writer  for  the  periodical  press — his  knowledge  of 
art  and  foreign  languages — suggests  himself  for  the  editorship 
of  the  Foreign  Quarterly  Reviciu — and  as  a  contributor  to  Black- 
woocTs  Magazhie — Sir  Henry  Cole's  tribute  to  his  powers — the 
Anti-Corn  Law  Circular — "The  Pen  and  the  Album" — writes 
for  many  periodicals  —  contributions  to  Fraser's  Magazine — 
"  The  Paris  Sketch  Book" — "  The  Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon" 
— replies  to  the  Times'  criticism  of  that  book — "  Comic  Tales 
and  Sketches  " — "  The  Irish  Sketch  Book  " — stays  with  Charles 
Lever  at  Templeogue — Thackeray  on  the  Irish — the  "  Life  of 
Talleyrand" — "Barry  Lyndon" — "From  Cornhill  to  Grand 
Cairo  " — Carlyle  resents  Thackeray  accepting  a  free  passage — 
Thackeray's  reply — "  Titmarsh  at  Jerusalem" — Thackeray's 
religion — his  indignation  with  Mrs.  Trollope's  interpretation  of 
the  Scriptures— his  dislike  of  the  Jews  and  the  Roman  Catholics 
— his  attitude  towards  "  Papal  Aggression  " — his  attack  on 
asceticism — his  doubts  of  the  infallibility  of  the  Bible— his  deep 
sense  of  religion — his  fearless  outlook  on  death  .         .    Pages  129-158 

CHAPTER   X 

ON  PICTURES   AND  BOOKS 

The  savagery  of  criticism  in  the  earlier  decades  of  the  nineteenth 
century — Thackeray's  papers  on  art — his  outspokenness — and 
the  anger  of  the  painters — his  opinion  of  "  Christian "  or 
"Catholic"  art — and  of  the  historical  school  of  painting — his 
appreciation  of  "The  Fighting  Tdm<5raire" — and  of  George 
Cruikshank — miscellaneous  criticism  of  books — on  Byron — on 
the  annuals — his  attack  on  Ainsworth — his  explanation — on  the 
Newgate  school  of  fiction — "  Catherine" — its  purpose — and  the 
author's  criticism  of  his  book — his  savage  attacks  on  Bulwer- 
Lytton — and  his  subsequent  cry  of  "  Peccavi  " — "Mr.  Yellow- 
plush's  Ajew  " — his  appreciation  of  many  contemporary  writers 
— Scott  and  Dumas  his  favourite  novelists — his  opinions  of 
Swift,  Sterne,  Addison,  Steele,  Goldsmith,  Prior  and  Gay — 
of  Smollett  and  Fielding — his  love  for  kindly  writers — and 
happy  endings       .........       159-182 

CHAPTER    XI 

THACKERAY   AND   THE   PUBLIC  (1846) 

Thackeray's  success  with  the  "  Yellowplush  Papers"  in  England 
and  America — his  opinion  of  "The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond" 
— and  John  Sterling's  appreciation  of  that  story — Thackeray's 
position  in  the  literary  world  in  1843 — his  income — his  belief  in 


CONTENTS  xix 

his  gift  of  writing — some  reasons  why  he  did  not  earlier  become 
famous — his  use  of  pseudonyms — his  best  work  not  published 
in  book-form — he  runs  counter  to  the  feeling  of  the  public — his 
earlier  works  considered — the  "  Yellowplush  Correspondence" 
—"Catherine"— "A  Shabby  Genteel  Story"  — the  "  Fitz- 
Boodle  Papers  " — "  Barry  Lyndon  "     ....    Pa^^s  183-200 

CHAPTER  XII 

MAN   ABOUT   TOWN 

Thackeray,  after  his  wife's  illness,  leaves  Great  Coram  Street — 
and  lives  in  apartments  in  Jermyn  Street — becomes  a  frequenter 
of  clubs — the  Garrick — the  Reform — the  Atheneeum — his  de- 
scription of  Bohemia — and  his  visits  to  it — haunts  that  have 
disappeared — the  "Coal  Hole" — the  "Cyder  Cellars" — and  a 
description  of  it  in  "  Pendennis  " — "Evans's" — Colonel  New- 
come  at  the  "Cave  of  Harmony" — the  Fielding  Club — Our 
Club — Thackeray's  love  of  "  the  play " — some  visits  to  the 
theatre  as  a  boy — and  at  Weimar — the  theatre  in  his  writings — 
"  The  Wolves  and  the  Lamb  " 201-223 

CHAPTER   XIII 

"VANITY   FAIR"   (1847-1848) 

Thackeray's  position  in  literary  circles  in  1846 — his  connection  with 
Punch — his  early  contributions  to  that  periodical — the  pro- 
prietors dissatisfied  with  "  Miss  Tickletoby's  Lectures" — which 
were  therefore  discontinued — Thackeray  takes  his  place  at  the 
Round  Table,  1843 — "Jeames's  Diary"  attracts  attention — 
"The  Snobs  of  England" — and  the  influence  of  these  papers 
on  Thackeray's  reputation — Thackeray  determined  to  make  a 
bid  for  fame — "  Vanity  Fair"  begun — the  MS.  of  the  novel  not 
"  hawked  round  the  town  " — accepted  by  Messrs.  Bradbury  and 
Evans  —  Thackeray's  letters  to  Aytoun  in  January  1847 — 
"  Vanity  Fair "  published  in  monthly  numbers — its  sales  in- 
crease— Thackeray's  works  never  so  popular  as  those  of 
Dickens — "  Currer  Bell"  dedicates  "Jane  Eyre"  to  Thackeray 
— Abraham  Hayward  praises  "  Vanity  Fair"  in  the  Edinburgh 
Review — the  charge  of  cynicism  brought  against  Thackeray — 
his  defence — his  philosophy — the  text  from  which  he  preached — 
"Vanitas  Vanitatum  " — the  gospel  of  love — Thackeray's  char- 
acter criticised  by  his  contemporaries — he  created  no  heroes 
or  heroines — his  desire  to  draw  men  and  women — his  char- 
acters human — his  portrait  gallery — the  novelist's  depredators — 
his  faults  as  a  novelist — his  asides— his  method  of  writing — his 
style — his  place  in  English  literature   .....       224-259 


XX  CONTENTS 

CHAPTER   XIV 

IN  SOCIETY 

Thackeray  lionised  by  society — his  amusement  at  being  so  treated 
— applause  an  incentive  to  him — society  provides  material  for 
his  writings — speech-making — his  "smash"  at  a  Literary  Fund 
Dinner — and  at  Manchester — his  speech  at  the  banquet  given 
on  his  departure  for  America,  1855 — his  belief  that  practice  in 
speaking  would  enable  him  to  express  his  opinions  in  the  House 
of  Commons — charged  with  tuft-hunting — the  disadvantages  of 
success — he  loses  old  friends — much  improved  by  success — 
tributes  by  Albert  Smith,  John  Hollingshead,  Frederick  Locker- 
Lampson,  Henry  Vizetelly- — Dr.  John  Brown  and  the  Rev. 
Whitwell  Elwin — attacks  on  him — his  moods — Mrs.  J.  T.  Fields' 
opinion  of  him — his  charity — and  his  kindness — interests  himself 
in  Louis  Marvy  and  others — his  sh3'ness — and  his  occasional 
savagery — his  sense  of  fun — his  conversation — some  bons  mots 
and  impromptus — sadness  the  keynote  to  his  character  Pages  260-281 


CHAPTER   XV 

PUNCH  (1 847-1 854) 

Thackeray's  earnings  in  1848 — success  of  "Vanity  Fair"  in  book- 
form —  Thackeray  resigns  the  assistant -editorship  of  the 
Examiner — and  retires  from  the  staff  of  Eraser's  Magazine — 
his  Christmas  Books — the  Times'  attack  on  "The  Kickleburys 
on  the  Rhine" — and  Thackeray's  reply,  "An  Essay  on  Thunder 
and  Small  Beer  " — Thackeray  sensitive  to  criticism — but  makes 
jokes  at  his  own  expense — writes  again  for  the  Morning  Chronicle 
— his  contributions  to  Punch  from  1847 — "  Punch's  Prize  Novel- 
ists"— "  Mr.  Brown's  Letters  to  a  Young  Man  About  Town" — 
the  "  Proser  Papers" — withdraws  from  Punch  in  1S54  —  his 
reference  to  his  withdrawal  in  his  article  on  John  Leech — a  slip 
of  the  pen — his  letter  to  the  proprietors  of  Punch  concerning  his 
resignation — he  attends  the  dinners  to  the  end — his  indebtedness 
to  Punch — Punch's  tribute  to  him — and  his  to  Punch — his  friends 
and  the  staff — Douglas  Jerrold — Thackeray's  Ballads — "  Bow 
Street  Ballads" — "Lyra  Hibernica  " — his  limitations  as  a 
writer  of  verse — his  sense  of  parody — and  of  tenderness — 
"The  Cane-Bottomed  Chair"— "St.  Sophia  of  Kioff"— "The 
Chronicle  of  the  Drum  " — his  merits  as  a  writer  of  light  and 
humorous  verse     .........       282-306 


CONTENTS  xxi 

CHAPTER  XVI 

"PENDENNIS"   (1849-1850) 

Thackeray  living  at  No.  88,  St.  James's  Street — takes  a  house, 
No.  13  (now  16),  Young-  Street,  Kensington — and  has  his 
daughters  brought  to  him  there — the  greater  part  of  "Vanity 
Fair"  written  in  that  house — his  acquaintance  with  Charlotte 
Bronte — her  appreciation  of  him — a  dismal  dinner  party — "The 
Last  Sketch  " — Thackeray  dissatisfied  with  his  financial  pros- 
pects— endeavours  to  obtain  the  secretaryship  of  the  Post  Office 
— and,  failing,  tries  to  get  a  magistracy — Horace  Smith — the 
Misses  Smith  and  "  Pendennis  " — the  publication  of  "  Pen- 
dennis"  begun  November  1848 — interrupted  by  a  serious  illness 
— some  opinions  of  the  earlier  parts  of  the  novel — Thackeray's 
recovery — "  Pendennis  "  autobiographical  in  parts — some  proto- 
types of  the  characters  in  "Vanity  Fair" — of  Sir  Pitt  Crawley, 
Lord  Steyne,  and  Becky  Sharp — some  prototypes  of  the  charac- 
ters in  "Pendennis" — of  Warrington,  Foker,  and  Shandon — 
"The  Dignity  of  Literature" — Thackeray  on  the  responsibility 
of  an  author — the  literary  man's  point  of  honour         .    Pages  307-329 


CHAPTER  XVII 

"THE   ENGLISH   HUMOURISTS"  AND  "ESMOND" 
(1851-1852) 

The  last  number  of  "  Pendennis"  issued — Thackeray  proposes  to 
lecture — his  friends'  objections — a  subject  found  in  "The  English 
Humourists  of  the  Eighteenth  Century" — the  first  lecture  at 
Willis's  Rooms — Thackeray's  nervousness — accounts  of  his 
reading — the  audiences — a  furore  for  the  lectures — Thackeray 
invited  to  deliver  them  in  England  and  America — he  writes 
"Esmond"  —  refuses  to  contribute  to  "Social  Zoologies" — 
George  M.  Smith  secures  the  publishing  rights  of  "  Esmond  " — 
Thackeray's  publishers — Thackeray's  comments  on  "  Esmond" 
— "Esmond's  "  place  in  literature — Thackeray  and  his  daughters 
go  abroad — he  returns  to  London — prepares  for  the  American 
lecture  tour  .........       330-342 


xxii  CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  XVIII 

FIRST  VISIT  TO  THE   UNITED  STATES   (1852-1853) 

Thackeray  attacked  in  an  American  paper  before  he  sails — a  fair 
chance  given  him  on  arrival — his  first  dinner  at  Boston — in  New 
York — his  great  popularity  in  the  United  States — his  books 
better  known  there  than  in  England — on  pirated  editions — 
Thackeray  likes  America  and  Americans — his  objections  to 
personal  journalism  in  the  United  States — "Mr.  Thackeray  in 
the  United  States  " — his  lectures  in  New  York — and  elsewhere 
— "Charity  and  Humour" — tired  of  acting  the  lion — his  sudden 
departure  for  England Pages  343-357 


ILLUSTRATIONS 


William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  .  Frontispiece 

From  an  unpublished  drawing  by  Daniel  Maclise,  circa  l8jS-     {.By  per- 
mission of  Majtr  William  H.  Lambert.') 

Walpole  House,  Chiswick  Mall,  London  .  to  face  page      20 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  .  .        .      22 

From  a  bust  by  J.  Devile,  circa  J822,  in  the  National  Portrait  Gallery. 

The  Rev.  Edward  Penny's  House,  Wilderness  Row,  Clerken- 

WELL  .  .  .  .  ...      24 

Where  Thackeray  lived  when  he  was  first  at  the  Charterhouse. 

The  Charterhouse        .  .  .  ...      34 

Larkbeare,  Ottery  St.  Mary      .  .  ...      42 

The  house  0/  Major  and  Mrs.  Cannichael-Smyih.     From  a  photograph  by 
H.  D.  Badcock. 

Trinity  College,  Cambridge       .  .  ...      48 

Showing  Thackeray's  room  on  the  left  oj  the  tower. 

No.  2,  Brick  Court,  Temple,  London      .  .  .        .      82 

No.  18,  Albion  Street,  Hyde  Park,  London  .  .        .116 

Where  Thackeray  and  his  wife  stayed  with  Major  and  Mrs.  Carmichael- 
Smyth  in  1837. 

No.  13,  Great  Coram  Street,  Brunswick  Square,  London  .  n8 

Where  Thackeray  and  his  wife  lived,  1837-184.0. 

The  Fraserians  .  .  .  ...     130 

Frojn  a  drawing  by  Daniel  Maclise,  1833. 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  ...     i6o 

From  an  unpublished  water-colour  drawing  by  D.  Dighton  (f)      {By  per- 
mission of  Major  William  H.  Lambert.) 

xxiii 


xxiv  ILLUSTRATIONS 

Facsimile  of  Thackeray's  Handwriting.   A  Page  of  a  Letter 

TO  T.  W.  GiBBS,  September  12,  1851      .  .  to  face  page     178 

From  the  original  in  the  British  Museum. 

W.  M.  Thackeray,  M.  J,  Higgins,  and  Henry  Reeve         .        .     202 

From  an  unpublished  pencil  sketch  by  Richard  Doyle,   in   the  British 
Museum. 

Thackeray  at  the  Play  ,  .  ...     216 

From  a  sketch  by  Frederick  Walker,  in  the  "  Cornhill  Magazine,"  Feb- 
ruary,  l8bl. 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  ...     224 

From   a  drawing  by   Count   D'Orsay,    184S.     (By  permission   of  Major 
William  H.  Lambert.) 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  ...     282 

From  a  painting  by  Samuel  Laurence,  in  the  National  Po7-trait  Gallery. 

Mr.  Punch's  Fancy  Ball  .  .  ...     290 

From  a  drawing  by  John  Leech,  in  "  Punch"  January  g,  1847. 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  ...     308 

From  an  unpublished  drawing  by  W.  Drujnmond,  l8^0.     {By  permission 
0/  Major  William  H.  Lambert.) 

No.  13  (now  16),  Young  Street,  Kensington,  London     .        .     310 

Where  Thackeray  lir'ed,  1846-1853. 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray  .  ...     330 

From  a  pencil  sketch  by  Richard  Doyle,  in  the  British  Museum. 

Mr.  Michael  Angelo  Titmarsh,  as  he  appeared  at  Willis's 

Rooms  in  his  celebrated  character  of  Mr.  Thackeray   .     336 

From  a  sketch  by  John  Leech,  in  the  '^  Month,"  July,  iSjl. 


IN   TEXT 

The  Sad  Jester  .  .  .  ...    357 

A  sketch  by  Thackeray  {'^Vanity  Fair,"  chap.  VIII.). 


WILLIAM    MAKEPEACE    THACKERAY 


I.— B 


WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE 

THACKERAY 


CHAPTER    I 
INTRODUCTORY 

The  Thackeray  family — John  de  Thackwra — William  de  Thackwra 
— Robert  Thackra  —  Walter  Thackeray  of  Hampsthwaite  —  Elias 
Thackeray — Archdeacon  Thackeray — his  sons  and  daughters — the 
Rev.  Elias  Thackeray,  Vicar  of  Dundalk — and  Thackeray's  tribute 
to  him  in  "The  Irish  Sketch  Book" — the  Archdeacon's  fifth  son — 
and  his  family — William  Makepeace  Thackeray,  grandfather  of 
the  novelist — the  Thackerays  a  typical  Anglo-Indian  family — the 
novelist's  uncles  and  aunts — his  cousin  Sir  Richmond  Shakespear — 
Richmond  Thackeray  and  Anne  Becher,  the  novelist's  parents — the 
birth  of  Thackeray. 

THE  family  of  the  Thackerays  has  been  traced 
back  to  the  fourteenth  century,  when  there 
was  a  John  de  Thackwra  who  held  of  the 
Abbot  of  St.  Mary  of  Fountains  a  dwelling- 
house  and  thirty  acres  of  land  at  Hartwich  in  1336, 
and,  twenty-five  years  after,  a  William  de  Thackwra, 
who  was  tenant  at  will  of  a  messuage  and  twenty-one 
acres  at  the  same  place.  A  century  later,  the  family 
records  note,  a  Robert  Thackra  kept  the  Grange  of 
Brimham  for  the  convent,  and  subsequently  an  Edward 


4  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 
Thacquarye  held  houses  and  land  from  the  same  con- 
vent. They  were  a  prolific  race,  these  de  Thackwras, 
Thackras,  and  Thacquaryes,  who  early  in  the  seven- 
teenth century  began  to  adopt  the  now  familiar  form  of 
the  surname.  Then  Walter  Thackeray  established 
himself  at  Hampsthwaite,  a  hamlet  on  the  Nidd,  near 
the  forest  of  Knaresborough,  in  the  West  Riding  of 
Yorkshire,  and  there  for  many  decades  the  family  re- 
mained, until  this  yeoman  branch  of  the  line  came  to 
an  end  with  the  death  of  Thomas  Thackeray  in  1804, 
seven  years  before  the  birth  of  the  novelist. 

Long  before  this  a  scion  of  the  race,  one  Elias 
Thackeray,  more  restless  or  more  ambitious  than  the 
rest,  had  left  the  homestead,  and  gone  to  Christ's 
College,  Cambridge,  where  fortune  smiled  upon  him, 
for,  becoming  M.A.  in  1709,  he  was  two  years  after 
appointed  to  the  living  of  Hawkhurst  in  the  Arch- 
deaconry of  Richmond,  Yorkshire.  Not  unmindful 
of  the  claims  of  his  kindred,  he  charged  himself  with 
the  welfare  of  a  twelve-year-old  nephew,  Thomas,  the 
son  of  his  brother  Timothy,  whom  in  January  1706  he 
contrived  to  place  on  the  foundation  at  Eton.  There 
the  lad  remained  for  six  years,  when  he  won  a  foun- 
dation scholarship  at  King's  College,  Cambridge, 
where  he  proceeded  to  a  fellowship  in  1715.  Thomas 
then,  for  a  while,  returned  to  his  old  school  as  an 
assistant  master,  and,  after  an  unsuccessful  application 
in  1744  for  the  provostship  of  King's,  in  1746  was 
appointed  headmaster  of  Harrow.  Harrow  school,  in 
spite  of  traditions  dating  back  for  two  hundred  years, 
was  at  that  time  in  a  sad  way,  having  been  practically 
ruined  under  the  regime  of  a  drunken,  disorderly,  idle 


INTRODUCTORY  5 

principal ;  and  when  Tliomas  began  his  reign  there 
were  but  thirty  boys — a  number  that  under  his  able 
rule  was  rapidly  increased  to  one  hundred  and  thirty. 
"Dr.  Thackeray,"  said  Dr.  Parr,  one  of  his  pupils, 
''though  a  strict  disciplinarian,  possessed  much  kind- 
ness of  temper,  and  much  suavity  of  manner.  I  have 
reason  to  love  and  revere  him  as  a  father  as  well  as  a 
master."  He  has  been  described  also  by  Dr.  Edmund 
Pyle,  who  wrote  him  down  "a  great  scholar  in  the  Eton 
way,  and  a  good  one  in  every  way  ;  and  a  true  Whig." 
The  worthy  Doctor,  in  1730,  at  the  age  of  thirty-five, 
had  married  Ann  (a  daughter  of  John  Woodward, 
Lord  of  the  Manor  of  Butler's  Marston,  Warwickshire), 
who,  during  the  next  twenty  years,  bore  six  sons  and 
ten  daughters,  and  survived  until  1797.  He  was 
in  1748  appointed  chaplain  to  Frederick,  Prince  of 
Wales,  and  was  marked  out  for  further  preferment. 
''The  Bishop  of  Winchester  (Benjamin  Hoadly)  never 
saw  this  man  in  his  life,  but  had  heard  so  much  good 
of  him  that  he  resolved  to  serve  him  some  way  or 
other,  if  ever  he  could,  but  said  nothing  to  anybody," 
Dr.  Pyle  wrote  in  1753.  "On  Friday  last  he  sent 
for  this  Dr.  Thackeray,  and  when  he  came  into  the 
room  my  lord  gave  him  a  parchment,  and  told  him 
he  had  long  heard  of  his  good  character,  and  long 
been  afraid  he  should  never  be  able  to  give  him  any 
serviceable  proof  of  the  good  opinion  he  had  conceived 
of  him  ;  that  what  he  had  put  into  his  hands  was  the 
Archdeaconry  of  Surrey,  which  he  hoped  would  be 
acceptable  to  him,  as  he  might  perform  the  duty  of  it 
yearly  at  the  time  of  his  leisure  in  the  Easter  holidays. 
Dr.  Thackeray  was  so  surprised  and  overcome  with 


6       WILLIAM   MAKEPEACE   THACKERAY 
this  extraordinary  manner  of  doing  him  a  favour,  that 
he  was  very  near  fainting  as  he  was  giving  him  institu- 
tion."    Dr.  Thackeray  held  the  archdeaconry  for  the 
remaining  seven  years  of  his  life. 

It  is  only  necessary  here  to  mention  three  sons  of  Dr. 
Thackeray.  The  fourth,  another  Thomas  (i 736-1 806), 
practised  surgery  at  Cambridge  and  left  issue  fifteen 
children  ;  of  whom  one  daughter,  Jane  Townley, 
married  George  Prynne,  the  political  economist;  a  son, 
William  Makepeace,^  settled  as  a  physician  at  Chester, 
and  another,  Elias,  took  orders  and  became  Vicar 
of  Dundalk.  To  this  last  his  relative,  the  novelist, 
paid  tribute  in  ''The  Irish  Sketch  Book"  : — 

I  was  so  lucky  as  to  have  an  introduction  to  the 
Vicar  of  Dundalk,  which  that  gentleman's  kind  and 
generous  nature  interpreted  into  a  claim  for  unlimited 
hospitality  ;  and  he  was  good  enough  to  consider 
himself  not  only  bound  to  receive  me,  but  to  give  up 
previous  engagements  abroad  in  order  to  do  so. 
I  need  not  say  that  it  afforded  me  sincere  pleasure  to 
witness,  for  a  couple  of  days,  his  labours  among  his 
people  ;  and  indeed  it  was  a  delightful  occupation  to 
watch  both  flock  and  pastor.  The  world  is  a  wicked, 
selfish,  abominable  place,  as  the  parson  tells  us  ;  but 
his  reverence  comes  out  of  his  pulpit  and  gives  the 
flattest  contradiction  to  his  doctrine,  busying  himself 
with  kind  actions  from  morning  till  night,  denying  to 
himself,  generous  to  others,  preaching  the  truth  to 
young  and  old,  clothing  the  naked,  feeding  the 
hungry,  consoling  the  wretched,  and  giving  hope 
to  the  sick.  2 

The  fifth  son  of  Dr.  Thackeray  was  a  physician  at 
Windsor,  and  in  the  autobiography  of  Mrs.  Papendiek, 

^  The  name  Makepeace  is  said  to  have  been  derived  from  an  ancestor 
who  suffered  at  the  stake  for  his  faith  in  the  "good  old  days"  of  Queen 
Mary.  ^  Chap.  xxvi. 


INTRODUCTORY  7 

Assistant-Keeper  of  the  Wardrobe  and  Reader  to 
Queen  Charlotte,  may  be  read  the  story  of  his  run- 
away marriage,  his  early  death,  and  his  widow's  strug- 
gles to  bring  up  her  seven  children.  One  of  these  was 
on  the  foundation  at  Eton  ;  another  was  a  midship- 
man in  the  navy  ;  and  a  third  son,  George,  became 
Provost  of  King's  College,  Cambridge. 

Dr.  Thackeray's  youngest  child,  William  Make- 
peace, grandfather  of  the  novelist,  born  in  1749, 
entered  the  East  India  Company's  service.  After  a 
preliminary  training  in  book-keeping,  proficiency  in 
which  was  essential  for  employment  in  John  Com- 
pany's service,  young  William  sailed  in  the  Lord 
Camden  for  Calcutta.  His  career  in  India  was  from 
the  outset  successful.  On  his  arrival,  placed  in  the 
Secretary's  office  with  a  salary  of  ;^8o,  his  zeal  at  once 
attracted  the  notice  of  Cartier,  Governor  of  Bengal, 
with  the  result  that  within  twelve  months  he  was  made 
assistant-treasurer  or  cash-keeper  at  a  considerably 
increased  stipend.  In  1771  he  was  appointed  Factor 
and  Fourth  in  Council  at  Dacca,  where  he  set  up  house 
with  two  sisters  whom  his  advancement  enabled  him  to 
summon    from    home.^     Warren    Hastings  made  him 

^  These  sisters  were  Jane  and  Henrietta,  then  aged  respectively 
thirty-two  and  twenty-two.  Jane  married  on  October  i6,  1772,  Major 
James  Rennell,  the  geographer  ;  and  later  in  the  year  Henrietta  married 
from  her  sister's  new  home  James  Harris,  the  head  of  the  East  India 
Company's  civil  service  in  Eastern  Bengal.  The  Rennells  did  not  go  to 
England  until  1777,  after  the  loss  of  their  first-born  ;  but  the  Harrises 
returned  forthwith.  Harris  purchased  a  country  seat  near  Chelmsford 
and  a  town  house  in  Great  Ormond  Street,  then  a  more  fashionable 
district  than  now  ;  but  when  he  died  it  was  found  his  cxtravag'ance  had 
made  deep  inroads  into  his  fortune,  although  enough  was  left  for  his 
widow  to  live  comfortably  at  Hadley,  and  to  provide  an  excellent  educa- 
tion for  the  children. 


8        WILLIAM   MAKEPEACE   THACKERAY 

Collector  of  the  frontier  province  of  Sylhet,  and  in 
1774  called  him  back  to  Dacca  as  Third  in  Council. 

Two  years  later  William  Makepeace  married  Amelia, 
daughter  of  Lieutenant-Colonel  Richmond  Webb, 
a  descendant  of  the  victor  of  Weynendal,  whom 
Thackeray  has  portrayed  in  "Esmond,"  and,  having 
during  his  nine  and  a  half  years'  sojourn  in  the  East 
realised  a  competence,  soon  after  sailed  with  his 
eighteen-year-old  bride  for  England.  The  young 
couple  settled  down  at  Hadley,  near  Chipping  Barnet, 
and  for  the  rest  of  their  days  led  a  simple,  hospitable 
country  life.  Mrs.  Thackeray  died  in  1810,  and  three 
years  later  was  followed  to  the  grave  by  her  husband, 
who  was  buried  under  the  shadow  of  the  church  of 
Monken  Hadley,  a  picturesque  building  upon  the 
tower  of  which  may  still  be  seen  the  battered  frag- 
ments of  an  old  beacon  cage. 

William  Makepeace  it  was  who  founded  the  great 
Anglo-Indian  Thackeray  family  which.  Sir  William 
Hunter  says,  ''formed  a  typical  family  of  the  Bengal 
Service  in  the  days  of  John  Company,  threw  out 
branches  into  the  sister  services,  military  and  medical, 
and  by  a  network  of  intermarriages  created  for  them- 
selves a  ruling  connection  both  in  India  and  in  the 
Court  of  Directors  at  home."i  It  has  already  been 
mentioned  how  the  sisters  who  went  out  to  him 
married  Anglo-Indians,  and  of  the  twelve  children  of 
his  marriage,  one  of  whom  died  in  infancy,  nine 
went  Eastward  Ho  !  Four  sons  entered  the  Madras 
and  Bengal  civil  services,  a  fifth  entered  the  Indian 
army,  a  sixth  became  a  barrister  and  journalist  at  Cal- 

1  Sir  W.  W.  Hunter  :   The  Thacherays  in  India. 


INTRODUCTORY  9 

cutta  ;  while  two  daughters  married  Bengal  civilians, 
and  a  third  became  the  wife  of  the  Attorney-General 
in  Ceylon. 

Of  these  children,  one  of  them  the  father  of  the 
novelist,  brief  mention  must  be  made.  The  eldest, 
William  Makepeace,  was  born  in  1778,  and  in  his 
twentieth  year  was  sent  to  Madras,  where  he  was  the 
first  civilian  to  secure  a  reward  (under  the  rules  of 
1797,  framed  for  the  encouragement  of  the  study  of 
Oriental  languages)  for  proficiency  in  Telugu.  His 
rise,  like  that  of  his  father,  was  rapid.  By  Lord  Clive 
he  was  appointed  translator  at  head-quarters  ;  then, 
assistant  to  Sir  Thomas  Munro,  Governor  of  the 
province  ;  and,  later,  the  first  judge  of  a  new  court 
established  at  Masulipatam.  He  became  a  member  of 
the  Board  of  Revenue  in  1806,  and  four  years  after  was 
promoted  to  be  Chief  Secretary  to  the  Madras  Govern- 
ment. His  health  broke  down  in  1813,  and  he  went 
to  England  for  a  while,  when  the  Court  of  Directors 
took  the  opportunity  to  commend  his  services  in  a 
despatch.  He  returned  to  India  in  1816,  and  was 
appointed  a  provisional  Member  of  Council  and  Presi- 
dent of  the  Board  of  Revenue  in  June  1820  ;  but  the 
long  sojourn  in  a  tropical  climate  had  undermined  his 
constitution,  and  he  did  not  live  long  to  enjoy  his 
honours.  He  died  on  January  11,  1823,  while  on  a  sea 
voyage  undertaken  in  the  hope  of  restoring  his 
health. 

Webb  Thackeray,  who  in  1806,  at  the  age  of 
eighteen,  went  out  to  Madras  as  a  writer,  died  within 
a  year  of  his  arrival.  In  the  same  service  as  the  two 
brothers  already  mentioned  was  the  fifth  son,  St.  John, 


10      WILLIAM   MAKEPEACE   THACKERAY 

who,  born  in  1791,  was  one  of  the  first  civilians  sent 
out  by  the  East  India  College  that  later  developed  into 
Haileybury.  He  went  to  Madras  in  1809,  a-^d  was 
killed  at  Kittur  Fort  where,  hoping  to  bring  the  in- 
surgents to  terms,  he  advanced  without  a  flag  of  truce 
and  was  fired  upon.  Thomas,  the  fourth  son,  entered 
the  Bengal  army,  and  was  killed  in  the  Nepal  War  in 
18 14,  in  an  heroic  endeavour  to  cover  the  retreat  of 
some  British  troops  with  his  Light  Company  against 
*'a  strong  and  overpowering  column  of  Gurkhas," 
which  called  forth  the  highest  encomiums  in  despatches 
from  the  commander-in-chief  and  the  Government  of 
India.  Charles,  the  youngest,  became  a  barrister  at 
Calcutta,  but  obtaining  little  practice,  wrote  leading 
articles  for  the  Englishman  and  other  papers.  He 
was  the  most  brilliant  of  the  brothers,  but,  succumb- 
ing to  a  passion  for  drink,  he  sank  into  an  obscure 
grave  in  the  mid  forties.  The  stay-at-home  (sixth) 
son,  Francis  (1793-1842),  took  holy  orders,  and  retired 
to  a  Herefordshire  parish,  where  he  wrote  several 
books,  including  a  work  on  the  ''State  of  Ancient 
Britain  under  the  Roman  Emperors"  and  the  better 
known  "History  of  William  Pitt,  Earl  of  Chatham," 
quoted  repeatedly  by  Carlyle  in  ''  Frederick  the 
Great,"  and  reviewed  by  Macaulay,  who  censured 
what  he  considered  the  author's  extravagant  praise 
of  his  hero. 

The  two  sisters  who  went  out  in  1802  to  join  their 
brother  Richmond  married  soon  after  their  arrival : 
Augusta  to  ''her  brother's  dearest  friend,"  Mr.  Elliott, 
a  civilian  ;  Emily  (who  died  in  India)  to  John  Talbot 
Shakespear.    Of  the  latter  alliance  came  nine  children. 


INTRODUCTORY  ii 

the  eldest  of  whom,  Colonel  John  Dowdeswell  Shake- 
spear,  ''a  noble,  chivalrous  figure,"  was  regarded  by 
the  family  as  the  prototype  of  Colonel  Newcome.  A 
younger  son  was  Colonel  Sir  Richmond  Shakespear, 
who  became  Agent  to  the  Governor-General  for  Central 
India,  and,  just  before  his  death  in  1861,  was  appointed 
by  Lord  Canning  to  the  Chief  Commissionership  of 
Mysore.  It  was  to  this  cousin  that  the  novelist  made 
appreciative  reference  in  a  "  Roundabout  Paper." 

*'Can  I  do  anything  for  you?"  I  remember  the 
kind  fellow  asking.  He  was  always  asking  that 
question  :  of  all  kinsmen  ;  of  all  widows  and  orphans; 
of  all  the  poor ;  of  young  men  who  might  need 
his  purse  or  his  service.  I  saw  a  young  officer 
yesterday  to  whom  the  first  words  Sir  Richmond 
Shakespear  wrote  on  his  arrival  in  India  were,  "  Can 
I  do  anything  for  you  ? "  His  purse  was  at  the 
command  of  all.  His  kind  hand  was  always  open. 
It  was  a  gracious  fate  which  sent  him  to  rescue 
widows  and  captives.  Where  could  they  have  had 
a  champion  more  chivalrous,  a  protector  more  loving 
and  tender?^ 

Richmond,  the  second  son,  and  father  of  the  novelist, 
was  born  at  South  Mimms,  on  September  i,  1781.2 
Sent  to  Eton  at  the  age  of  ten,  he  remained  there 
until  1796,  when,  being  nominated  to  a  writership  in 
the  Bengal  Civil  Service,  he  left  school  to  go  through 
the  usual  training  in  merchants'  accounts.  He  arrived 
in  Calcutta  in   1798,  studied  at  Fort  William  College, 

^  On  Letts' s  Diary. 

-  Sir  William  Hunter  has  pointed  out  that  the  tombstone  says 
Richmond  Thackeray  died  on  September  13,  1815,  aged  thirty-two 
years,  ten  months,  and  twenty-three  days,  which  would  make  the  birth- 
day October  21,  1782,  instead  of  September  i,  1781,  as  stated  in  the 
Family  Book  of  the  Thackerays. 


12  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 
and  soon,  as  a  reward  for  proficiency  in  Arabic  and 
Persian,  was  appointed  Collector  of  Midnapur.  He 
was  removed  to  Birbhum  in  1803,  three  years  after  was 
appointed  Judge  of  Ramgarh,  and  in  1807  was  pro- 
moted to  be  Secretary  of  the  Bengal  Board  of  Revenue. 
From  this  time  forth,  with  the  exception  of  some 
months  during  which  he  acted  as  Judge  of  Midnapur, 
he  remained  in  the  capital,  where,  by  virtue  of  his 
personal  charm  and  his  artistic  and  musical  tastes,  he 
became  a  noted  personage  in  the  little  social  world 
that  flourished  there. 

At  Calcutta  Richmond  met,  fell  in  love  with,  and 
married  on  October  13,  1810,  one  of  the  reigning 
beauties,  Anne  Becher,  descended  from  an  old  Bengal 
civilian  family,  of  whom,  perhaps,  the  most  distin- 
guished member  was  Richard  Becher,  who  held  high 
office  when  Clive  ruled  India.^  In  the  following 
December  Richmond  was  promoted  to  be  Collector  of 
the  Twenty-four  Parganas,  one  of  the  prizes  of  the 
Bengal  service,  when  he  and  his  young  wife  moved 
to  the  official  residence  at  Alipur,  which  was  so  close 
to  the  city  as  not  to  interfere  with  their  social  life. 
There,  on  July  18,  181 1,  was  born  their  only  child, 
William  Makepeace. 

^  Richard  Becher  retired  in  1774,  and  returned  to  England,  but  seven 
years  later  lost  his  fortune  in  the  endeavour  to  help  a  friend,  whereupon 
the  Court  of  Directors  gave  him  a  compassionate  appointment  as  head 
of  the  Calcutta  mint.  But  the  blow  was  too  much  for  him  and  he  died, 
a  disappointed  old  man,  on  November  17,  1782.  "I  wonder,"  says  Sir 
William  Hunter,  "  if  Thackeray  had  that  sad  story  of  his  mother's  kins- 
man in  mind  when  he  touched  off,  with  so  tender  a  pathos,  Colonel  New- 
come's  loss  of  fortune  in  old  age." 


CHAPTER  II 

CHILDHOOD   (1811-1822) 

Death  of  Richmond  Thackeray — Thackeray  and  Richmond  Shakespear 
sent  to  England,  1817 — Thackeray's  recollection  of  India — his  subse- 
quent acquaintance  with  Anglo-Indians — his  mother's  teachings — 
their  affection  for  each  other — her  marriage  with  Major  Carmichael- 
Smyth — Major  and  Mrs.  Carmichael-Smyth  return  to  England,  182 1 
— Thackeray's  journey  from  India  to  England — he  sees  Napoleon  at 
St.  Helena — stays  with  his  guardian,  Peter  Moore,  at  Hadley — and 
afterwards  with  Mrs.  Becher  at  Fareham — goes  to  school  at 
Southampton — his  unhappiness  there — sent  to  Dr.  Turner's  school  at 
Chiswick — Walpole  House  and  Miss  Pinkerton's  Academy. 

FOUR  years  after  the  birth  of  his  son  Richmond 
Thackeray  died.  His  widow  remained  in 
India  and  kept  the  little  boy  with  her  until 
early  in  the  year  1817,  when  she  had  to  make 
the  sacrifice  exacted  from  all  English  parents  resident 
in  hot  climates  and  send  the  boy  to  England.  This 
was  William  Makepeace's  first  parting  with  his  mother, 
and  though  he  was  but  five  years  old,  not  the  novelty 
of  the  voyage,  nor  the  company  of  his  cousin  and  play- 
mate, Richmond  Shakespear,  obliterated  the  memory 
of  the  last  good-bye :  so  deep  an  impression  did  it  make 
upon  him,  that  more  than  two  score  years  after  he  could 
still  conjure  up  the  moment  of  his  departure. 

In  one  of  the  stories  by  the  present  writer,  a  man 
is  described  tottering  *'  up  the  steps  of  the  ghaut," 
having  just  parted  with  his  child,  whom  he  is 
despatching  to  England  from  India.     I  wrote  this, 

13 


14      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [iSn 

remembering  in  long,  long  distant  days,  such  a 
ghaut,  or  river-stair,  at  Calcutta  ;  and  a  day  when, 
down  those  steps,  to  a  boat  which  was  in  waiting, 
came  two  children,  whose  mothers  remained  on  the 
shore.  One  of  these  ladies  was  never  to  see  her  boy 
more.  ^ 

The  lad  carried  with  him  some  dim  impressions 
of  the  East,  of  a  few  people  and  some  places.  '*My 
native  Gunga  I  remember  quite  well,  and  the  sense  of 
it  as  being  quite  friendly  and  beautiful,"  he  told 
Whitwell  Elwin; "  but  the  Anglo-Indians  who  figure 
prominently  in  some  of  his  novels  were,  of  course, 
the  outcome  of  his  subsequent  acquaintance  with 
his  many  relations  and  friends,  civilian  and  military, 
who  had  passed  the  greater  portion  of  their  lives  in 
building  up  the  British  Empire  in  that  vast  southern 
peninsula.  Thackeray  met  them  and  their  kind  at  the 
Oriental  Club  in  Hanover  Square,  and  made  no  secret 
that  he  drew  upon  them  for  some  of  his  characters.  '*  I 
see  where  you  got  your  Colonel  Newcome,"  said  Mr. 
Fremantle  Carmichael  to  the  novelist  one  day.  "To 
be  sure  you  would,"  was  the  reply,  ''only  I  had  to 
Angelicise  the  old  boys  a  little. "^ 

The  principal  memory  Thackeray  brought  away  from 
his  birthplace  was  that  of  his  beautiful,  kindly  mother, 
whose  influence  remained  with  him  through  life.  His 
pride  of  birth  and  love  of  romance  may  have  come  to 
him,  through  his  grandmother,  Amelia  Richmond 
Webb,  from  the  Constables  of  Richmond  and  Lords  of 

^  On  Letts's  Diary.  The  "story  by  the  present  writer"  is  "  Philip  " 
(chap,  xxviii),  the  lady  who  died  was  Mrs.  Shakespear. 

"^  Rev.  Whitwell  Elwin  :  "Thackeray's  Boyhood"  (Monthly  Review, 
June,   1904,  p.  162), 

'  A.  F.  Baillie  :  The  Oriental  Club  in  Ha7wver  Square. 


i8n]  EARLY    IMPRESSIONS  15 

Burton,  although  the  latter  quality  was  also  inherent  in 
his  uncle,  Francis  Thackeray,  who  delighted  the  family 
circle  with  improvised  fairy  tales  ;  his  hatred  of  shams 
and  snobbishness  doubtless  came  to  him  direct  from 
his  distant  paternal  ancestors  of  the  yeoman  stock  of 
Hampsthwaite  ;  and  perhaps  the  later  generations  of 
the  Thackerays,  men  who  lived  by  their  brain,  built 
roads  and  administered  justice  in  a  distant  land,  and 
fought  and  died  for  their  country,  supplied  the  stronger 
fibres  of  his  nature.  From  his  father,  it  has  been  sug- 
gested, he  may  have  inherited  a  love  for  luxury,  as  well 
as  a  taste  for  art  and  letters  ;  from  his  mother  he  learnt 
that  reverence  for  womanhood  and  the  incalculable  value 
of  love  which  was  a  distinguishing  trait  of  his  life  and 
inspired  many  of  the  finest  passages  in  his  works,  per- 
haps reaching  its  highest  expression  in  the  scene  that 
closes  with  the  death  of  Helen  Pendennis.  These 
principles  that  he  drank  in  at  his  mother's  knee,  when 
he  came  to  man's  estate  he  was,  indeed,  never  weary  of 
preaching. 

Canst  thou,  O  friendly  reader,  count  upon  the 
fidelity  of  an  artless  heart  or  two,  and  reckon  among 
the  blessings  which  Heaven  hath  bestowed  upon  thee 
the  love  of  faithful  women  ?  Purify  thine  own  heart, 
and  try  to  make  it  worthy  of  theirs.  All  the  prizes 
of  life  are  nothing  compared  to  that  one.  All  the 
rewards  of  ambition,  wealth,  pleasure,  only  vanity 
and  disappointment  grasped  at  greedily  and  fought 
for  fiercely,  and  over  and  over  again  found  worth- 
less by  the  weary  winners. 

Thackeray  loved  his  mother  and  was  as  proud  of  her 
as  ever  she  was  of  him,  and  his  only  complaint  was 
that  she  would  always  endeavour  to  make  his  friends 


i6      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1811- 

realise  that  her  son  was  "the  divinest  creature  in  the 
world."  She  was,  her  eldest  grand-daughter  has  told 
us,  a  woman  of  "strong  feeling,  somewhat  imperious, 
with  a  passionate  love  for  little  children,  and  with 
extraordinary  sympathy  and  enthusiasm  for  anyone 
in  trouble,"^  and,  according  to  Herman  Merivale,  who 
knew  her  in  her  later  years,  she  was  one  of  the 
handsomest  old  ladies  in  the  world,  with  great  dark 
eyebrows  and  beautiful  white  hair.^  Thackeray,  aged 
six,  wrote  little  notes  to  his  "dear  Mama"  in  India, 
and,  aged  seven,  begged  her  to  return  to  Eng- 
land with  Major  Henry  Carmichael-Smyth,  of  the 
Royal  (Bengal)  Engineers,  whom  she  had  recently 
married.  Three  years  later,  in  182 1,  she  came,  to  his 
great  joy=  "He  had  a  perfect  memory  of  me,"  Mrs. 
Carmichael-Smyth  said,  delighted  to  find  him  sturdy 
and  tall  for  his  age.  "  He  could  not  speak,  but  kissed 
me  again  and  again."  Thackeray's  relations  with  his 
mother  were  always  intimate,  and  the  only  difference 
that  ever  arose  between  them  was  on  religion,  Mrs. 
Carmichael-Smyth  belonging  to  the  evangelical  section 
of  the  Church. 

While  at  Charterhouse  Thackeray  wrote  to  her 
regularly  ;  and  from  Cambridge  and  during  his  con- 
tinental rambles  he  never  failed  to  send  long  letters, 
usually  illustrated  with  amusing  sketches.  He  named 
his  eldest  daughter  Anne  after  her,  and,  when  Major 
Carmichael-Smyth  died,  his  house  became  her  home. 
She  outlived  her  famous  son  by  a  year,  and  was  buried 
on  Christmas  Eve  1864,  the  first  anniversary  of  his  death. 

'  Lady  Ritchie  :  Chapters  from  Some  Me7noirs,  ■^.  15. 
2  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  39. 


i822]  ARRIVES   IN   ENGLAND  17 

Thackeray  has  placed  on  record  some  of  his  earliest 
memories,  dating  so  far  back  as  his  voyage  from  India. 

When  I  first  saw  England,  she  was  in  mourning 
for  the  young  Princess  Charlotte,  the  hope  of  the 
Empire.  I  came  from  India  as  a  child,  and  our  ship 
touched  at  an  island  (St.  Helena)  on  the  way  home, 
where  my  black  servant  took  me  a  long  walk  over 
rocks  and  hills  until  we  reached  a  garden,  where  we 
saw  a  man  walking.  ''That  is  he,"  cried  the  black 
man:  "that  is  Bonaparte!  He  eats  three  sheep 
every  day,  and  all  the  children  he  can  lay  hands  on." 
There  were  people  in  the  British  dominions  besides 
that  poor  Calcutta  serving-man,  with  an  equal  horror 
of  the  Corsican  ogre.  With  the  same  childish 
attendant,  I  remember  peeping  through  the  colon- 
nade at  Carlton  House,  and  seeing  the  abode  of  the 
great  Prince  Regent.  I  can  yet  see  the  Guards 
pacing  before  the  gates  of  the  Palace.  The  palace  ! 
What  palace?  The  palace  exists  no  more  than  the 
palace  of  Nebuchadnezzar.     It  is  but  a  name  now.^ 

From  the  above  passage  it  is  possible  approximately 
to  fix  the  date  of  the  little  boy's  arrival  in  England  : 
Princess  Charlotte  died  on  November  6,  18 17.  He 
was  taken  at  once  to  his  guardian  and  great-uncle, 
Peter  Moore,  the  husband  of  Sarah  Richmond  Webb 
(Amelia's  sister).  Lord  of  the  Manor  of  Hadley,  where 
there  was  an  Anglo-Indian  colony  connected  with  the 
Thackerays.  William  Makepeace  the  first  had  settled 
there,  and,  after  the  death  of  her  husband,  Mrs.  Harris 
established  herself  in  her  brother's  neighbourhood, 
while  subsequently  another  Thackeray  became  rector  of 
the  parish.  Moore,  however,  was  the  great  man  there. 
In  a  few  years  he  had  made  an  ample  fortune  in  India 
and  at  the  age  of  thirty  returned  to  England,  where  he 

^  The  Four  Georges — George  the  Third. 
I.-C 


i8      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  dSn- 

threw  himself  into  the  political  arena,  sided  with  Burke 
and  Sheridan  against  Warren  Hastings,  was  returned 
as  member  of  Parliament  for  Tewkesbury  in  1796,  and 
in  1803,  after  a  contest  that  cost  him  ;^25,ooo,  was 
elected  at  Coventry,  which  constituency  he  represented 
through  six  parliaments.  He  became  known  as  a  most 
adroit  manager  of  private  bills  ;  but  unfortunately  he 
was  careless  as  to  the  financial  stability  of  the  com- 
panies to  which  he  gave  the  support  of  his  name,  and, 
when  in  1825  there  was  a  general  collapse  of  the 
properties  with  which  he  was  associated,  he  had  to  fly 
to  Dieppe  to  escape  arrest.  He  was,  however,  an 
honest  man  ;  gave  up  nearly  all  his  property  to  the 
creditors  of  the  various  ventures  ;  and  died,  **a  broken 
exile,"  at  Abbeville,  on  May  5,  1828,  aged  seventy-five. 
Moore  was  kind  to  his  ward,  whose  impressions  of  him 
were  tender  ;  and  doubtless  the  sudden  transformation 
of  the  wealthy  and  influential  Member  of  Parliament 
into  the  unhappy  bankrupt  old  man,  occurring  at  an 
age  when  a  lad  is  susceptible,  supplied  some  touches 
to  the  narrative  of  the  last  days  of  Colonel  Newcome, 
and  provided  the  future  novelist's   first  acquaintance 

with 

the  old  old  tale 

Of  Folly,  Fortune,  Glory,  Ruin. 

When  Thackeray  was  not  at  Hadley  he  stayed  at 
Fareham  in  Hampshire  in  the  care  of  his  mother's 
grandmother  and  aunt — "Aunt  Becher,"  Lady  Ritchie 
says  she  called  the  latter,  *'  but  her  other  name  I  do 
believe  was  Miss  Martha  Honeyman."  The  contrast 
between  the  splendour  of  the  Hadley  mansion  and  the 
simplicity  of  the  house  in  the  Fareham  High  Street 


1822]  HIS   FIRST   SCHOOL  19 

must  have  impressed  itself  on  the  observant  lad,  who 
began  early  in  life  to  store  up  a  mass  of  material 
which  he  was  subsequently  to  turn  to  such  excellent 
use  ;  but  he  was  as  happy  in  one  place  as  the  other, 
and  of  the  humbler  home  in  the  small  Cranford-like 
town  he  has  left  a  pretty  picture. 

She  was  eighty  years  of  age  then.  A  most  lovely 
and  picturesque  old  lady,  with  a  long  tortoiseshell 
cane,  with  a  little  puff,  or  tour^  of  snow-white  (or 
was  it  powdered?)  hair  under  her  cap,  with  the 
prettiest  little  black  velvet  slippers  and  high  heels 
you  ever  saw.  She  had  a  grandson,  a  lieutenant  in 
the  navy  ;  son  of  her  son,  a  captain  in  the  navy  ; 
grandson  of  her  husband,  a  captain  in  the  navy.  She 
lived  for  scores  and  scores  of  years  in  a  dear  little  old 
Hampshire  town  inhabited  by  the  wives,  widows, 
daughters  of  navy  captains,  admirals,  lieutenants.^ 

The  lad  had  little  to  complain  of  until  his  education 
began,  when  his  lot  was  unfortunate.  He  was  sent  first 
to  a  small  school  at  Southampton. 

We  Indian  children  [i.e.  Richmond  Shakespear 
and  himself]  were  consigned  to  a  school  of  which  our 
deluded  parents  had  heard  a  favourable  report,  but 
which  was  governed  by  a  horrible  little  tyrant,  who 
made  our  young  lives  so  miserable  that  I  remember 
kneeling  by  my  little  bed  of  a  night,  and  saying, 
''  Pray  God,  I  may  dream  of  my  mother.  "^ 

How  he  hated  the  place,  and  how  miserable  he  was 
there,  he  never  forgot  to  the  end  of  his  days,  and  more 
than  once  towards  the  end  of  his  life  he  wrote  of  it. 

That  first  night  at  school — hard  bed,  hard  words, 
strange  boys  bullying,  and  laughing,  and  jarring 
you  with  their  hateful  merriment — as  for  the  first 
night  at  a  strange  school,  we  most  of  us  remember 
what  that  is.    And  the  first  is  not  the  worst,  my  boys, 

1  0}i  a  Peal  of  Bells.  »  On  Lett^s  Diary, 


20     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1822 

there's  the  rub.^  .  .  .  What  a  dreadful  place  that 
private  school  was ;  cold,  chilblains,  bad  dinners, 
not  enough  victuals,  and  caning  awful  I^ 

He  was  soon  taken  from  this  place  and  sent  to  a  school 
at  Chiswick,  kept  by  a  Dr.  Turner,  a  distant  relative. 
From  there  at  the  instigation  of  his  aunt,  Mrs.  Ritchie, 
who  lived  close  by,  he  might  write  to  his  mother  that 
he  was  happy  because  ''there  are  so  many  good  boys 
to  play  with "  ;  but,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  so  miserable 
was  the  sensitive  little  man  that  he  made  an  attempt 
to  run  away,  and,  in  later  days,  when  driving  to 
Richmond,  would  point  to  that  end  of  Chiswick  Lane 
which  abuts  on  the  wide  road  to  Hammersmith  where, 
frightened,  he  turned  back,  fortunately  to  arrive  at  the 
house  without  his  absence  being  noted.  The  school 
occupied  the  historic  Walpole  House,  on  Chiswick 
Mall,  and  figured  subsequently  as  Miss  Pinkerton's 
Academy  in  "Vanity  Fair."  An  illustration  at  the  end 
of  the  first  chapter  of  that  novel  shows  the  fine  iron 
gates  of  the  Academy,  and,  just  outside,  a  coach,  with 
Sambo  of  the  bandy  legs  hanging  on  behind,  taking 
away  Becky  Sharp  and  Amelia  Sedley,  and,  while  little 
Laura  Martin  (who  was  just  in  roundhand)  is  weeping 
because  her  dear  Amelia  is  leaving.  Miss  Sharp,  her 
pale  face  thrust  out  of  the  carriage  window,  is  throwing 
back  the  copy  of  Johnson's  Dixonary  which  good- 
hearted  Miss  Jemima  has  just  given  her.  ''So  much  for 
the  Dixonary,"  she  exclaimed.  "Thank  God,  I'm  out 
of  Chiswick."  Doubtless,  when  in  182 1  little  William 
Makepeace  left  Dr.  Turner's,  his  feeling  was  much  the 
same. 

'  On  Two  Childreti  in  Black.  -  On  Being  Found  Out. 


UAI.rul.K    IUjU.se,    Clll^WlCK    .MALI, 


CHAPTER   III 

THE   CHARTERHOUSE   (1822-1828) 

Thackeray  goes  to  the  Charterhouse,  1822 — Dr.  John  Russell — Dr, 
Russell  portrayed  in  "Pendennis" — Thackeray  unhappy  at  the 
Charterhouse — at  the  Rev.  Edward  Penny's  house  in  Wilderness  Row 
— becomes  a  day-boy  and  lives  at  Mrs.  Boyes's — his  studies — his 
schoolfellows — his  love  of  reading,  and  especially  of  novel-reading — 
first  attempts  to  write — his  earliest  verses — his  passion  for  carica- 
ture— description  of  him  as  a  schoolboy — his  nose  broken  in  a  fight 
— he  creates  "Grey  Friars" — visits  his  old  school — Thackeray  the 
great  apostle  of  "tipping" — the  Poor  Brethren  of  the  Charterhouse 
— a  prototype  of  Colonel  Newcome — Thackeray's  description  of  Grey 
Friars  in  "The  Newcomes." 

jA   FTER  four  years'  preliminary  training  Thack- 

/^L        eray,  at  the  age  of  ten,  was  sent  in   1822 

/      ^     to  Charterhouse  School.     It  was  an  unpro- 

pitious  time  for  a  small  boy  to  enter  that 

great  seminary,  for  just  then  the  head  master,  Dr.  John 

Russell,^  was   introducing  the   '*  Madras"  or   ''Bell" 

system,  under  which  a  school,  to  a  great  extent,  teaches 

itself,  the  lower  forms  being  taught  by  prcepositi— hoys 

of  a  form  just  below  the  Sixth  (or,  as  Russell  called  it, 

the  First),  which  bore  the  name  of  the  Emeriti.     It  was 

found  possible  under  this  system  to  run  the  school  with 

only  seven  assistant-masters,  and  the  saving  effected 

by  the  reduction  of  the  teaching  staff  was  so  consider- 

^  John  Russell  (1787-1863),  head  master  of  Charterhouse  i8ii«-i832  ; 
then  Rector  of  St.  Botolph's,  Bishopsgate,  until  his  death. 


22     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

able  that  the  Governors  materially  reduced  the  fees, 
which  resulted  in  a  rush  of  parents  anxious  to  obtain 
for  their  sons  the  advantages  of  a  first-class  school  at 
small  expense.  Far  more  boys  were  taken  than  could 
be  comfortably  accommodated,  and  the  class-rooms 
and  the  boarding-houses  kept  by  masters  were  over- 
crowded. 

Russell,  whom  Thackeray  nicknamed  "Rude  Boreas" 
and  compared  to  a  hungry  lion,  was  not  noted  for 
suaveness  of  manner,  and  at  his  first  interview  with 
the  new  boy  did  not  make  a  favourable  impression. 
''Take  that  boy  and  his  box  to  the  matron,"  he  thun- 
dered in  his  big  brassy  voice  to  the  school  janitor,  as 
hough  sentencing  a  culprit  for  execution,  ''and  make 
my  compliments  to  the  junior  master  and  tell  him  the 
boy  knows  nothing  and  will  just  do  for  the  lowest 
form."  This  was  not  a  pleasant  introduction  to  public- 
school  life  for  a  timid  lad  of  tender  years,  but  there 
was  worse  to  come,  for  Russell  would  address  lengthy 
and  vigorous  rebukes  to  any  boy  who  blundered — a 
habit  which  subsequently  Thackeray,  who  had  suffered 
from  it,  satirised  most  delightfully. 

Pendennis,  sir,  your  idleness  is  incorrigible,  and 
your  stupidity  beyond  example.  You  are  a  disgrace 
to  your  school,  and  to  your  family,  and  I  have  no 
doubt  will  prove  so  in  after-life  to  your  country. 
If  that  vice,  sir,  which  is  described  to  us  as  the  root 
of  all  evil,  be  really  what  moralists  have  represented 
(and  I  have  no  doubt  of  the  correctness  of  their 
opinion),  for  what  a  prodigious  quantity  of  future 
crime  and  wickedness  are  you,  unhappy  boy,  laying 
the  seed  !  Miserable  trifler  !  A  boy  who  construes 
Se  and  instead  of  oe  but  at  sixteen  years  of  age  is 
guilty  not  merely  of  folly,  and  ignorance,  and  dul- 


-^ 


^jI^H 


Wll  I.IAM     MAKErKACK     rHA<KKRAV 
J-'roiii  a  hiisi  Ity  J.  Devile,  circa  iS.'J 


i828]  DR.   JOHN   RUSSELL  23 

ness  inconceivable,  but  of  crime,  of  deadly  crime, 
of  filial  ingratitude,  which  I  tremble  to  contemplate. 
A  boy,  sir,  who  does  not  learn  his  Greek  play  cheats 
the  parent  who  spends  money  for  his  education. 
A  boy  who  cheats  his  parent  is  not  very  far  from 
robbing  or  forging  upon  his  neighbour.  A  man 
who  forges  on  his  neighbour  pays  the  penalty  of  his 
crime  on  the  gallows.  And  it  is  not  such  a  one  that 
I  pity  (for  he  will  be  deservedly  cut  off),  but  his 
maddened  and  heart-broken  parents,  who  are  driven 
to  a  premature  grave  by  his  crimes,  or,  if  they  live, 
drag  on  a  wretched  and  dishonoured  old  age.  Go 
on,  sir,  and  I  warn  you  that  the  very  next  mistake 
that  you  make  shall  subject  you  to  the  punishment 
of  the  rod.^ 


At  first  terrified  by  these  admonitions,  Thackeray 
after  a  while,  like  the  rest  of  the  school,  came  to  bear 
them  more  calmly  ;  but  before  he  arrived  at  that  happy 
state,  when  thus  addressed  before  his  class,  he  was 
miserable  :  shy  and  retiring,  his  nature  was  outraged 
by  such  verbal  castigations ;  and  when  Russell  employed 
the  weapon  of  ridicule,  he  had  hard  work  to  hold  back 
his  tears. 

Do  not  laugh  at  him  writhing,  and  cause  all  the 
other  boys  to  laugh.  Remember  your  own  young 
days  at  school,  my  friend — the  tingling  cheeks,  burn- 
ing ears,  bursting  heart,  and  passion  of  desperate 
tears,  with  which  you  looked  up,  after  having  per- 
formed some  blunder,  whilst  the  doctor  held  you  up 
to  public  scorn  before  the  class,  and  cracked  his  great 
clumsy  jokes  upon  you,  helpless,  and  a  prisoner  ! 
Better  the  block  itself,  and  the  lictors,  with  their 
fasces  of  birch-twigs,  than  the  maddening  torture 
of  those  jokes  !  - 

^  Pendennis,  chap.  ii. 
'  Thorns  i?i  the  Cushion. 


24     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

It  must  not,  however,  be  thought  that  Thackeray  was 
systematically  ill-treated,  for  the  Doctor,  whose  bark 
was  much  worse  than  his  bite,  though  unsympathetic, 
pompous,  and  stern,  was  just  according  to  his  lights  : 
none  the  less  the  lad,  especially  during  his  first  years 
at  the  Charterhouse,  was  far  from  happy,  and,  indeed, 
the  school  at  that  time  was  a  rough  training-ground. 
Who,  looking  back,  cannot  remember  in  his  school- 
days instances  of  injustice  caused  by  a  master's  care- 
lessness or  ignorance,  and  recall  the  deep  sense  of 
injury  aroused  by  what  in  reality  was  the  most  trifling 
incident?  That  Thackeray  never  forgot  these  early 
troubles  is  clear  from  many  passages  in  his  works 
and  from  the  fact  that,  in  one  of  the  last  years  of  his 
life,  he  gladly  commissioned  Mr.  Frederick  Gale  to 
write  for  the  Cornhill  Magazine  an  article  on  ''The 
Wrongs  of  My  Boyhood,"^  showing  how  unjust  mas- 
ters were  and  how  they  misunderstood  boys. 

When  Thackeray  first  went  to  Charterhouse  he  was 
placed  in  the  care  of  the  Rev.  Edward  Penny,  whose 
house  in  Wilderness  Row,  Clerkenwell  Road  (from 
which  a  tunnel  ran  into  the  school  grounds),  still 
stands,  and  now  boasts  a  tablet  bearing  in  rudely  cut 
letters  the  inscription  : 

WILLIAM   MAKEPEACE 
THACKERAY 

lived  here 
1822-1824 

There  he  was  wretched,  and  certainly  little  considera- 
tion was  shown  by  this  assistant  master  for  the  deli- 
cately nurtured  lads  in  his  custody  : 

1  Vol.  Ill,  pp.  95-103. 


THE    KEV.    EDWAKI)    I'KNNVS    HOUSE,    WILDERNESS    ROW,    (  LERKENWEI.I. 

//■//(■r,-  riinckcrny  Ih'i'd  ivlu'ii  he  ivas  JJj-st  at  tin-  Clmrterhousc 


i82S]  AT   MRS.   BOYES'S  25 

We  were  fifty  boys  in  our  boarding-house,  and 
had  to  wash  in  a  leaden  trough,  under  a  cistern,  with 
lumps  of  fat,  yellow  soap  floating  about  in  the  ice 
and  water. 

Thackeray  left  Penny's  to  become  a  day-boy,  when 
he  stayed  with  Mrs.  Boyes,  who  lived  in  Charterhouse 
Square,  and  took  in  lads  belonging  to  Charterhouse 
and  Merchant  Taylors.  Here  he  was  less  discontented, 
though  it  seems  that  the  lady  was  of  a  hasty  temper. 
To  the  last,  however.  Charterhouse  was  uncongenial 
to  Thackeray,  and  even  when  he  was  seventeen  years 
old,  and  second  monitor  in  Day-boys,  he  found  cause 
for  bitter  complaint. 

If  the  boy  found  the  master  devoid  of  sympathy, 
there  can  be  no  doubt  the  master  had  reason  to  con- 
sider the  boy  a  not  very  satisfactory  pupil.  Placed 
originally  in  the  Tenth  Form,  in  1823  he  was  in  the 
Seventh,  in  the  next  year  in  the  Sixth,  and  in  1825  in 
the  Third  ;i  while  the  Blue  Book  of  May  1826  shows 
him  in  the  Second,  and  that  of  the  following  May  in 
the  First  Form.  He  seems  to  have  jumped  the  Emeriti^ 
the  qualification  for  which  was  an  intimate  acquaint- 
ance with  Horace.     His  rapid  rise,  however,  may  be 

'  Among  his  schoolfellows  in  1825  were  Edmund  Lushington,  captain 
of  the  school  ;  Francis  Edgworth  and  Charles  Freshwater,  monitors  ; 
G.  S.  Venables,  Richard  Venables,  John  Murray,  and  Martin  Tupper, 
in  the  First  Form  ;  Ralph  Bernal  (afterwards  Bernal-Osborne),  Paken- 
ham  Edgworth,  Francis  Beaumont,  and  John  Stewart  Horner  in  the 
Second ;  in  the  Third,  besides  Thackeray  himself,  James  Reynolds 
Young ;  and  in  the  Fourth,  Henry  George  Liddell.  Henry  Ray  Fresh- 
water was  in  the  Seventh  ;  Richmond  Shakespear  and  Alfred  Gatty  in 
the  Eighth  ;  and  in  the  Twelfth,  just  entering  the  school,  John  Leech 
and  Alfred  Montgomery.  Other  contemporaries  were  George  Shake- 
spear, George  Lock,  Robert  Curzon,  J,  F.  Boyes,  Eubank,  Came, 
Stoddart,  Garden,  and  Poynter. 


26     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

attributed  rather  to  the  fact  that  in  1826  and  the  follow- 
ing year  the  school  ran  down  in  numbers  than  to  his 
scholastic  attainments.  Euclid,  we  are  told,  was  easy 
to  him,  though  he  made  little  progress  in  algebra ; 
but,  from  the  pedagogical  point  of  view,  his  most 
serious  defect  was  inaptitude  for  the  study  of  the 
classics,  and  doubtless  it  was  the  difficulty  he  experi- 
enced in  his  efforts  to  write  Latin  hexameters  and 
construe  Greek  that  aroused  Dr.  Russell's  ire  and  em- 
bittered the  lad's  stay  at  Charterhouse. 

I  always  had  my  doubts  about  the  classics.  When 
I  saw  a  brute  of  a  schoolmaster,  whose  mind  was  as 
coarse-grained  as  any  ploughboy's  in  Christendom  ; 
whose  manners  were  those  of  the  most  insufferable 
of  Heaven's  creatures,  the  English  snob  trying  to 
turn  gentleman  ;  whose  lips,  when  they  were  not 
mouthing  Greek  or  grammar,  were  yelling  out  the 
most  brutal  abuse  of  poor  little  cowering  gentlemen 
standing  before  him  :  when  I  saw  this  kind  of  man 
(and  the  instructors  of  youth  are  selected  very  fre- 
quently indeed  out  of  this  favoured  class)  and  heard 
him  roar  out  praises,  and  pump  himself  into  enthusi- 
asm for,  certain  Greek  poetry, — I  say  I  had  my  doubts 
about  the  genuineness  of  the  article.  A  man  will 
thump  you  or  call  you  names  because  you  won't 
learn — but  I  could  never  take  to  the  proffered  deli- 
cacy ;  the  fingers  that  offered  it  were  so  dirty.  Fancy 
the  brutality  of  a  man  who  began  a  Greek  grammar 
with,  "  ti'ttto),  I  thrash!"  We  were  all  made  to 
begin  it  in  that  way.^ 

After  reading  this  reminiscence  it  is  not  surprising 
to  find  that  all  Thackeray's  contemporaries  are  agreed 
that  he  had  no  school  industry  :  Dean  Liddell  (whom 
the  novelist   subsequently   accused  of   having    ruined 

1  Punch  in  the  East,  III. 


1828]  HIS   STUDIES  27 

his  chance  of  scholarship  by  doing  his  verses)  thought 
he  was  very  lazy  in  school-work;^  and  J.  F.  Boyes, 
another  comrade,  has  put  it  on  record  that,  "  No  one  in 
those  early  days  could  have  believed  that  there  was 
much  work  in  him,  or  that  he  would  ever  rise  to  the 
top  of  any  tree  by  climbing."  ^  With  the  exception  of 
Horace,  whom  he  came  to  love,  Thackeray  was  never 
intimately  acquainted  with  any  Latin  or  Greek  author, 
and  it  may  be  doubted  if,  after  he  left  Cambridge, 
he  ever  read  their  works.  His  style  was  moulded, 
not  upon  these  ancient  writers,  but  upon  the  great 
English  classics  of  the  eighteenth  century,  and 
especially  upon  Fielding,  Steele  (for  whom  and  for 
Addison  he  had  great  regard  as  old  Carthusians), 
Goldsmith,  and  Sterne,  while  in  many  passages  of 
'*  Esmond"  may  be  discerned  a  memory  of  Addison's 
stately  prose.  *'  My  English  would  have  been  much 
better,"  he  said,  *'if  I  had  read  Fielding  before  I  was 
ten." 

Thackeray,  in  after-life,  was  under  no  illusion  as  to 
his  lack  of  distinction  at  Charterhouse. 

I  was  not  a  brilliant  boy  at  school — the  only 
prize  I  ever  remember  to  have  got  was  in  a  kind  of 
lottery  in  which  I  was  obliged  to  subscribe  with 
seventeen  other  competitors — and  of  which  the  prize 
was  a  flogging.  That  I  won.  But  I  don't  think  I 
carried  off  any  other.  Possibly  from  laziness,  or  if 
you  please  from  incapacity,  but  I  certainly  was  rather 
inclined  to  be  on  the  side  of  the  dunces.^ 

This  account  of  himself  at  an  early  age  he  put  into 

^  G.  S.  Davies  :    Thackeray  at  Charterhouse. 
"^  A  Memorial  of  Thackeray  s  Schooldays. 
^  Punch  in  the  East,  III. 


28     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

the  mouth  of  the  '*Fat  Contributor,"  and,  not  long 
after,  in  the  novel  of  "  Pendennis,"  he  gave  an  ex- 
cellent description  of  himself  in  his  schooldays.^ 

Reading  was  the  boy's  great  solace,  and  he  was 
never  so  happy,  in  these  days,  whether  at  school  or  in 
the  holidays,  as  when  he  had  a  book  in  his  hand  : 
like  Arthur  Pendennis,  he  '*  had  a  natural  taste  for 
every  book  which  did  not  fall  into  his  school  course." 
Even  in  later  life,  when  he  had  too  many  calls  on  his 
time  and  too  much  strain  on  his  mind  to  permit  any 
great  indulgence  in  this  direction,  he  cherished  the 
intention,  when  he  could  afford  it,  to  retire  into  the 
country,  and,  ending  as  he  began,  to  feast  upon  books. 
Works  of  fiction  were  his  great  delight.^  <<  Novels 
are  sweets  :  all  people  with  healthy  literary  appetites 
love  them — almost  all  women, — and  a  vast  number  of 
clever,  hard-headed  men,"  he  declared  forty  years 
later ;  and  in  his  youth  he  liked  **  novels  without  love 
or  talking  or  any  of  that  nonsense,  but  containing 
plenty  of  fighting,  escaping,  robbing  and  rescuing."^ 

As  some  bells  in  a  church  hard  by  are  making  a 
great  holiday  clanging  in  the  summer  afternoon,  I 
am  reminded  somehow  of  a  July  day,  a  garden,  and 
a  great  clanging  of  bells  years  and  years  ago,  on  the 
very  day  when  George  IV  was  crowned  (July  19, 
182 1 ).  I  remember  a  little  boy,  lying  in  that  garden, 
reading  his  first  novel.  It  was  called  "  The  Scottish 
Chiefs."'^ 

^  Pendennis,  chap.  ii.  See  the  passage  beginning,  "Arthur  Pen- 
dennis's  schoolfellows  at  the  Grey  Friars  school  state  that,  as  a  boy, 
he  .    .    ." 

-  Whitwell  Elwin  :    Thackeray's  Boyhood. 

^  On  a  Lazy  Idle  Boy, 

*  On  a  Peal  of  Bells. 


i828]  LOVE  OF  NOVELS  29 

That  was  before  he  went  to  Charterhouse,  but  the 
taste  remained,  and  many  an  hour  that  should  have 
been  devoted  to  study  was  occupied  by  the  surrep- 
titious reading  of  works  of  fiction. 

What  is  that  I  see?  A  boy,— a  boy  in  a  jacket. 
He  is  at  a  desk ;  he  has  great  books  before  him — 
Latin  and  Greek  books  and  dictionaries.  Yes,  but 
behind  the  great  books,  which  he  pretends  to  read, 
is  a  little  one,  with  pictures,  which  he  is  really  reading. 
It  is — yes,  I  can  read  it  now — it  is  "The  Heart  of 
Midlothian,"  by  the  author  of ''Waverley" — or,  no,  it 
is  "Life  in  London,  or.  The  Adventures  of  Corinthian 
Tom,  Jeremiah  Hawthorn,  and  their  friend  Bob 
Logic,"  by  Pierce  Egan  ;  and  it  has  pictures — oh, 
such  funny  pictures !  As  he  reads  there  comes 
behind  the  boy  a  man,  a  dervish,  in  a  black  gown, 
like  a  woman,  and  a  black  square  cap,  and  he  has 
a  book  in  each  hand,  and  he  seizes  the  boy  who  is 
reading  the  picture-book,  and  lays  his  head  upon 
one  of  his  books,  and  smacks  it  with  the  other. 
The  boy  makes  faces,  and  so  that  picture  dis- 
appears.^ 

Those  happy  hours  spent  over  entrancing  fiction  he 
was  never  tired  of  recalling,  and  in  later  days  even  as 
he  groaned  over  the  lost  illusions  of  the  pantomime, 
so  he  sighed  over  the  never-to-be-repeated  raptures 
derived  from  those  novels  of  a  bygone  age  that  no 
longer  had  the  power  to  charm  the  more  sophisticated 
reader  of  mature  age. 

Yonder  comes  a  footman  with  a  bundle  of  novels 
from  the  library.  Are  they  as  good  as  our  novels? 
Oh  !  how  delightful  they  were  !  Shades  of  Valan- 
cour,  awful  ghost  of  Manfroni,  how  I  shudder  at 
your   appearance  !      Sweet   image   of   Thaddeus    of 

^  De  Juventute. 


30     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

Warsaw,  how  often  has  this  almost  infantile  hand 
tried  to  depict  you  in  a  Polish  cap  and  richly  em- 
broidered tights  I  And  as  for  the  Corinthian  Tom 
in  the  light  blue  pantaloons  and  Hessians,  and  Jerry 
Hawthorn  from  the  country,  can  all  the  fashion, 
can  all  the  splendour  of  real  life  which  these  eyes 
have  subsequently  beheld,  can  all  the  wit  I  have  heard 
or  read  in  later  times,  compare  with  your  fashion, 
with  your  b  illiancy,  with  your  delightful  grace, 
and  sparkling  vivacious  rattle  ?  .  .  .  (My  eyes)  are 
looking  backwards,  back  into  forty  years  off,  into  a 
dark  room,  into  a  little  house  hard  by  on  the  Common 
here,  in  the  Bartlemy-tide  holidays.  The  parents 
have  gone  to  town  for  two  days  :  the  house  is  all  his 
own,  his  own  and  a  grim  old  maid-servant's,  and  a 
little  boy  is  seated  at  night  in  the  lonely  drawing- 
room — poring  over  "  Manfroni,  or,  The  One-handed 
Monk,"  so  frightened  that  he  scarce  dares  to  turn 
round. ^ 

From  intense  admiration  of  books  to  the  desire  to 
write  is  in  many  cases  but  a  step,  and  Thackeray, 
though  not  precocious,  felt  from  an  early  age  a  call  to 
authorship.  From  the  first  he  found  no  difficulty  in 
expressing  himself  on  paper.  "  I  always  feel  as  if  I 
were  at  home  when  I  am  writing,"  he  said,  in  excuse 
for  his  many  lengthy  letters  to  his  mother  ;  and  later 
he  took  the  same  fond  relative  into  his  confidence  in 
the  matter  of  his  ambitious  longings.  "I  have  not 
yet  drawn  out  a  plan  for  my  stories,  but  certain  germs 
thereof  are  yet  budding  in  my  mind  which  I  hope  by 
assiduous  application  will  flourish  yet  and  bring  forth 
fruit."  How  like  is  that  to  the  maturer  Thackeray, 
who  always  dreamt  of  assiduous  application  and  so 
rarely  succeeded  in  drawing  out  a  plan  for  his  stories  ! 

^  Tunhridge  Toys. 


i828]  AN    EARLY   PARODY  31 

Oh,  for  a  half-holiday,  and  a  quiet  corner,  and  one 
of  those  books  again  !  Those  books  and  perhaps 
those  eyes  with  which  we  read  them  ;  and,  it  may  be, 
the  brains  behind  the  eyes  !  It  may  be  the  tart  was 
good  ;  but  how  fresh  the  appetite  was  !  If  the  gods 
would  give  me  the  desire  of  my  heart,  I  should  be 
able  to  write  a  story  which  boys  would  relish  for 
the  next  few  dozen  of  centuries.^ 


There  was  nothing  remarkable  in  this  wish,  which 
has  been  indulged  in  by  many  thousand  lads  before 
and  since,  but  the  vast  majority  have  soon  outgrown 
their  desire,  and  become  soldiers,  merchants,  sailors, 
clerks,  shopkeepers,  or  followers  of  the  score  of  other 
professions  or  trades.  What  is  distinctive  is  that  in 
this  one  case  the  boy  realised  his  youthful  ideal. 

Though  we  have  it  on  the  authority  of  Mr.  Boyes 
that  in  his  schooldays  Thackeray's  idea  was  the  serious 
and  sublime,  and  that  he  spoke  "in  terms  of  homage 
to  the  genius  of  Keats  that  he  would  not  have  vouch- 
safed to  the  whole  tribe  of  humorists,"  his  first  efforts 
as  a  juvenile  author  were  humorous.  Indeed,  among 
his  friends  he  became  known  by  the  ease  with  which  he 
wrote  verses  and  parodies,  and  his  first  known  effort 
has  been  preserved. 

VIOLETS  CABBAGES 

(lETITIA   ELIZABETH   LANDON)  (THACKERAY) 

Violets  !  deep  blue  violets  !  Cabbages !  bright  green  cabbages ! 

April's  loveliest  coronets  :  April's  loveliest  gifts,  I  guess, 

There  are  no  flowers  grown  in  the  There  is  not  a  plant  in  the  garden 

vale,  laid, 

Kissed  by  the  sun,  woo'd  by  the  Raised  by  the  dung,  dug  by  the 

gale,  spade, 

'  De  Juventute. 


32     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

None  with  the  dew  of  the  twilight       None  by  the  gardener  watered^  I 

wet,  ween, 

So  sweet  as  the  deep  blue  violet.  So  sweet  as  the  cabbage,  the  cab- 

bage green, 

I  do  remember  how  sweet  a  breath  I  do  remember  how  sweet  a  smell 

Came  with   the  azure   light   of  a  Came  with  the  cabbage  I  loved  so 

wreath,  well, 

That  hung  round  the  wild  harp's  Served  up  with  the  beef  that  beau- 
golden  chords,  tiful  looked. 

That  rang  to  my  dark-eyed  lover's  The    beef    that    dark-eyed     Ellen 

words,  cooked. 

I  have  seen  that  dear  harp  rolled  I  have  seen  beef  served  with  radish 

With  gems  of  the  East  and  bands  of  horse, 

of  gold,  I  have  seen  beef  served  with  lettice 

But    it    never    was    sweeter    than  of  cos, 

when  set  But    it   is   far   nicer,    far    nicer,    I 

With  leaves  of  the  dark  blue  violet.  guess, 

As  bubble  and  squeak,   beef  and 
cabbages. 

And  when  the  grave  shall  open  for  And  when  the  dinner-bell  sounds 

me —  for  me — 

I  care  not  how  soon  that  time  may  I  care  not  how  soon  that  time  may 

be —  be — 

Never  a  rose  shall  bloom  on   my  Carrots  shall  never  be  served  on 

tomb,  my  cloth. 

It  breathes  too  much  of  hope  and  They  are  far  too  sweet  for  a  boy  of 

bloom  ;  my  broth  ; 

But  let  me  have  there   the  meek  But   let  me   have  there  a  mighty 

regret  mess 

Of  the  bending  and  deep  blue  vio-  Of  smoking  hot  beef  and  cabbages. 

let. 

These  verses  are  noteworthy  only  as  showing  the 
boy's  keen  eye  for  the  ridiculous  and  his  natural  anti- 
pathy to  mawkish  sentimentality  ;  but  they  are  interest- 
ing as  the  first  fruits  of  the  gift  that  was  later  to 
produce  the  amusing  lampoon  on  Lytton  and  to  cul- 
minate in  the  admirable  ''  Novels  by  Eminent  Hands." 
*'  Cabbages"  was  thought  very  witty  by  the  Carthusians, 
who  encouraged  the  author  to  further  efforts,  of  which 


i828]  HIS   CARICATURES  33 

the  most  amusing  was,  by  Anthony  Trollope,  ''found 
hanging  in  the  memory  of  an  old  friend,  the  serious 
nature  of  whose  literary  labours  would  certainly  have 
driven  such  lines  from  his  mind,  had  they  not  at  the 
time  caught  fast  hold  of  him."^ 

In  the  romantic  little  town  of  Highbury 

My  father  kept  a  circulatin'  library  ; 

He  followed  in  his  youth  that  man  immortal,  who 

Conquered  the  Frenchmen  on  the  plains  of  Waterloo. 

Mamma  was  an  inhabitant  of  Drogheda, 

Very  good  to  darn  and  to  embroider. 

In  the  famous  island  of  Jamaica, 

For  thirty  years  I've  been  a  sugar-baker  ; 

And  here  I  sit,  the  Muses'  'appy  vot'ry, 

A  cultivatin'  every  kind  of  po'try. 

This  is  more  suggestive  of  the  maturer  Thackeray  in 
frolicsome  moments,  with  his  liking  for  those  disgrace- 
ful rhymes  of  which,  so  far  from  being  ashamed,  he 
was  inordinately  proud  ;  and  in  the  easy  flow  of  these 
doggerel  lines  a  discerning  reader  may,  perhaps,  detect 
the  mettle  that  was  to  produce  the  astonishing  descrip- 
tion of  the  famous  White  Squall  in  the  account  of 
the  "Journey  from  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo." 

If  Thackeray  found  delight  in  parody,  his  supreme 
joy  in  those  days  was  caricature,  and  his  sketches,  if 
they  did  not  extort  praise  from  the  masters,  gave  him 
an  enviable  fame  among  his  fellows. 

O  Scottish  Chiefs,  didn't  we  weep  over  you  !  O 
mysteries  of  Udolpho,  didn't  I  and  Briggs  Minor 
draw  pictures  out  of  you.  .  .  .  Efforts  feeble,  indeed, 
but  still  giving  pleasure  to  ourselves  and  our  friends. 

^  Anthony  Trollope  :  Thackeray,  p.  32. 
I.— D 


34     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

"I  say,  old  boy,  draw  us  Vivaldi  tortured  in  the 
Inquisition,"  or  ''Draw  us  Don  Quixote  and  the 
windmills,"  amateurs  would  say,  to  boys  who  had  a 
love  of  drawing.^ 

As  a  child  he  began  to  draw,  and  one  of  his  first 
letters  to  his  mother  contained  an  attempt  at  a  pen-and- 
ink  portrait  of  Major  Carmichael-Smyth,  to  whom  she 
was  then  engaged.  "  His  drawings  are  wonderful," 
said  his  proud  parent.  At  the  Charterhouse  he  orna- 
mented the  leaves  of  his  class-books  with  satirical 
pictures  of  his  masters  and  schoolfellows,  and  he 
embellished  with  burlesque  illustrations  his  copies  of 
''Don  Quixote,"  "The  Castle  of  Otranto,"  "Robin- 
son Crusoe,"  "Joseph  Andrews,"  and  many  other 
stories. 

A  lad  who  does  not  place  games  above  everything  in 
the  world,  and  prefers  a  book  to  a  ball,  is  looked  at 
askance  in  all  English  public  schools  ;  and  Thackeray 
cannot  have  been  popular  till  he  showed  himself  pos- 
sessed of  qualities  that  compensated,  or  almost  com- 
pensated, for  these  defects.  It  has  already  been  said 
that  his  powers  of  caricature  attracted  the  respectful 
admiration  of  his  schoolfellows,  which  was  not  lessened 
when  it  was  found  that  the  volumes  over  which  he 
pored  provided  him  with  tales  to  narrate  in  the  dormi- 
tory. These  accomplishments  apart,  he  was  very  like 
other  boys.     Like  all  lads  worth  their  salt,   he  was  a 

^  De  Juventute.  Many  of  the  drawings  done  at  the  Charterhouse  have 
been  reproduced  in  "  Thackerayana,"  edited  by  Joseph  Grego  (1875). 
"Vivaldi"  was  evidently  a  favourite  subject  with  Thackeray,  for  there 
are  two  sets  of  sketches,  one  reproduced  by  Lady  Ritchie  in  the  bio- 
graphical edition  of  her  father's  works  (Vol.  xiii),  the  other  by  the 
present  writer  in  the  Co?moisseur  (January  1904). 


1828]  SCHOOLBOY   DELIGHTS  35 

hero-worshipper,  and  bowed  down  before  the  cock  of 
the  school.  *'I  have  never  seen  the  man  since,  but 
still  think  of  him  as  of  something  awful,  gigantic,  mys- 
terious "  ;  ^  he  was  good-tempered  and  sociable,  full  of 
fun,  and  possessed  of  the  redeeming  virtue  of  an  in- 
ordinate love  of  ''tuck":  it  was  one  of  the  humorous 
laments  of  his  later  days  that  confectioners  were  not 
what  they  were  when  he  was  a  lad. 

They  say  that  claret  is  better  now-a-days,  and 
cookery  much  improved  since  the  days  of  my 
monarch — of  George  IV.  Pastry  Cookery  is  certainly 
not  so  good.  I  have  often  eaten  half-a-crown's  worth 
(including,  I  trust,  ginger-beer)  at  our  school  pastry- 
cook's, and  that  is  a  proof  that  the  pastry  must  have 
been  very  good,  for  could  I  do  as  much  now?  I 
passed  by  the  pastrycook's  shop  lately,  having  occa- 
sion to  visit  my  old  school.  It  looked  a  dingy  old 
baker's  ;  misfortunes  may  have  come  over  him — 
those  penny  tarts  certainly  did  not  look  so  nice  as  I 
remember  them  :  but  he  may  have  grown  careless  as 
he  has  grown  old  (I  should  judge  him  to  be  now 
about  96  years  of  age),  and  his  hand  may  have  lost 
its  cunning.2 

Thackeray  found  pleasure  in  other  schoolboy  de- 
lights, took  part  in  amateur  theatricals — the  play  was 
the  now  long-forgotten  "  Bombastes  Furioso" — and 
joined  in  the  debates.  "  We  are  going  to  have  a  debate 
to-morrow  night  on  the  expediency  of  a  standing 
army,"  he  wrote  to  his  mother  in  February  1828. 
"  We  have  not  yet  settled  the  sides  we  shall  take."^  He 
must  have  been  present  at  the  great  fight  between  the 

^  Men^s  Wives:  Mr,  and  Mrs.  Frank  Berry,  chap.  i. 

^  De  Juventute. 

*  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  45. 


36     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

prototypes  of  Berry  and  Biggs,  narrated  with  much 
detail  in  "  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Frank  Berry,"  when,  after  the 
hundred-and-second  round,  the  latter  could  not  come  up 
to  time  ;  and  no  doubt  he  witnessed  the  severe  punish- 
ment inflicted  upon  Reginald  Cuff  by  "Dobbin  of 
Ours,"  the  full  particulars  of  which  all  may  read  in 
the  fifth  chapter  of  ''Vanity  Fair."  He  even  himself 
indulged  in  a  bout — with  dire  results.  George  Stovin 
Venables,  when  they  were  both  boarders  at  Penny's, 
goaded  him  into  combat,  and  unhappily  broke  his  nose. 
The  nose  was  reset,  and  then  deliberately  rebroken 
by  a  brutal  school  bully.  "  I  got  at  last  big  enough 
and  strong  enough,"  Thackeray  told  his  friend  Boyes, 
the  son  of  the  lady  with  whom  he  lived,  "to  give  the 
ruffian  the  soundest  thrashing  a  boy  ever  had."^ 

Thackeray  once  referred  to  his  schooldays  as 
"years  of  infernal  misery,  tyranny,  and  annoyance," 
but  time  naturally  softened  his  feelings  towards  the 
Charterhouse,  and  although  he  avenged  himself  on 
Dr.  Russell  by  pillorying  him  as  Dr.  Birch  and  Dr. 
Swishtail,  in  the  days  of  his  prosperity  he  regarded 
his  old  seminary  without  malice,  and  the  "Slaughter 
House  School,  near  Smithfield,  London,"  of  "Men's 
Wives"  became  the  "  Grey  Friars "  of  "The  New- 
comes."  Probably  Mr.  Whibley  is  right,  however,  in 
asserting  that  Thackeray  did  not  love  the  Charter- 
house until  he  had  created  it  for  himself,-  though  this, 
of  course,  never  occurred  to  the  great  man. 

To    others    than    Cistercians,     Grey   Friars   is  a 
dreary   place    possibly.      Nevertheless,    the    pupils 

1  J.  F.  Boyes  :  A  Memorial  of  Thackeray's  Schooldays. 
^   WilliaTn  Makepeace  Thackeray,  p.  6. 


i828]         LEAVES   THE   CHARTERHOUSE  37 

educated  there  love  to  revisit  it ;  and  the  oldest  of 
us  grow  young  again  for  an  hour  or  two  as  we  come 
back  into  these  scenes  of  childhood. ^  .  .  .  Men 
revisit  the  old  school,  though  hateful  to  them,  with 
ever  so  much  kindness  and  sentimental  affection. 
There  was  the  tree,  under  which  the  bully  licked 
you  :  here  the  ground  where  you  had  to  fag  out  on 
holidays  and  so  forth.  .    .    .  - 

Thackeray  left  the  Charterhouse  on  April  16,  1828, 
but  he  revisited  it  frequently,  and  a  recollection  of  the 
first  time  he  went  there  not  as  a  pupil  probably  in- 
spired a  description  of  a  similar  event  in  the  lives  of 
Arthur  Pendennis  and  Harry  Foker,  who  renewed 
acquaintance  with  some  of  their  old  comrades  there. 

The  bell  for  afternoon-school  rang  as  they  were 
swaggering  about  the  play-ground  talking  to  their 
old  cronies.  The  awful  Doctor  passed  into  school 
with  his  grammar  in  his  hand.  Foker  slunk  away 
uneasily  at  his  presence,  but  Pen  went  up  blushing 
and  shook  the  dignitary  by  the  hand.  He  laughed 
as  he  thought  that  well-remembered  Latin  Grammar 
had  boxed  his  ears  many  a  time.^ 

Thackeray  must  have  received  a  hearty  welcome 
from  the  boys  there  as  elsewhere,  for  he  was  the  great 
apostle  of  tipping,  and  always  filled  his  pockets  before 
paying  such  a  visit.  An  old  Carthusian  who  once 
accompanied  him  has  related  how  Thackeray  tipped 
the  first  lad  he  met  with  a  sovereign,  proceeded  to 
empty  purse  and  pocket  in  tips  for  the  other  boys,  and, 
his  resources  temporarily  exhausted,  borrowed  every 
coin  his   companion  had  about   him,    and  distributed 

^  The  Nevjco^nes,  chap.  Ixxv. 

"^  On  a  Joke  I  once  heard  from  the  late  Thomas  Hood. 

'  Pendennis,  chap,  xviii. 


38     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

these  too,  with  the  result  that,  not  having  the  cab-fare 
left,  the  two  "old  boys"  had  to  walk  home.  Thackeray 
could  never  see  a  boy  without  wanting  to  tip  him,  and 
there  can  scarcely  have  been  a  lad  of  his  acquaintance 
who  did  not  profit  by  his  good-nature.  On  Founder's 
Day  at  Charterhouse  he  would  single  out  a  name  from 
the  gown-boys'  list.  *'  Here's  the  son  of  dear  old  So- 
and-so,"  he  would  say.  "  Let's  go  and  tip  him."  "He 
had  a  particular  delight  in  boys,  and  an  excellent  way 
with  them,"  Dickens  has  recorded.  "  I  remember  his 
once  asking  me  with  fantastic  gravity,  when  he  had 
been  to  Eton  where  my  eldest  boy  was,  whether  I  felt  as 
he  did  in  regard  of  never  seeing  a  boy  without  want- 
ing instantly  to  give  him  a  sovereign."^  Arguments 
against  tipping  met  with  short  shrift  from  Thackeray. 

Ah,  my  dear  sir  !  if  you  have  any  little  friends  at 
school,  go  and  see  them,  and  do  the  natural  thing  by 
them.  Don't  fancy  they  are  too  old — try  'em.  And 
they  will  remember  you,  and  bless  you  in  future  days  ; 
and  their  gratitude  shall  accompany  your  dreary  after- 
life, and  they  shall  meet  you  kindly  when  thanks  for 
kindness  are  scant.  Oh,  mercy  !  shall  I  ever  forget 
the  sovereign  you  gave  me.  Captain  Bob.  .  .  It  is  all 
very  well,  my  dear  sir,  to  say  that  boys  contract  habits 
of  expecting  tips  from  their  parents'  friends,  that  they 
become  avaricious  and  so  forth.  Avaricious  !  fudge  ! 
Boys  contract  habits  of  tart  and  toffee-eating  which 
they  do  not  carry  into  after-life.  On  the  contrary,  I 
wish  I  did  like  'em.  What  rapture  of  pleasure  one 
could  have  now  for  five-shillings,  if  one  could  but 
pick  it  off  the  pastrycook's  tray  !  No.  If  you  have 
any  little  friends  at  school,  out  with  your  half-crowns, 
my  friend,  and  impart  to  those  little  ones  the  fleeting 
joys  of  their  age.^ 

^  Charles  Dickens  :  In  Memoriam  {Cornhill  Magazine,  July  1864). 
^  Tunbridge  Toys. 


i828]   CARTHUSIANUS   CARTHUSIANORUM    39 

Though  Charterhouse  figures  prominently  in  several 
of  Thackeray's  books,  and  though  he  sent  to  that  estab- 
lishment young  Rawdon  Crawley,  George  Osborne  and 
his  son,  Arthur  Pendennis,  Philip  Ringwood,  Colonel 
Newcome  and  Clive,  Philip  Firmin,  and  many  other 
lads  of  his  creation,  Thackeray  earned  the  title  of 
Carthusianiis  Carthusianorurn,  not  for  his  mention  of 
the  school,  but  for  the  immortal  picture  of  the  Poor 
Brethren.  A  thoughtful  boy,  the  magic  of  the  ancient 
monastery  threw  its  spell  over  him,  and  many  a  time 
he  must  have  contemplated  with  awe  those  venerable 
gentlemen  in  the  cloak  that  is  a  survival  of  the  old 
monastic  garb  of  the  Carthusians  patrolling  in  the 
spacious  quadrangles  and  beautiful  lawns  hemmed  in 
by  the  quaint  one-storied  buildings,  and  have  pondered 
on  the  sight  of  the  few  score  veterans  fallen  upon  evil 
days  in  their  humble  quiet  lodging,  a  stone's-throw 
from  the  noisiest,  busiest  part  of  the  noisiest,  busiest 
city  in  the  world.  The  present  writer  visited  the  place 
not  long  since,  and  was  so  fortunate  as  to  be  taken  in 
hand  by  a  mere  stripling  of  sixty-one — he  did  not  look 
a  day  more  than  fifty — who  mentioned  incidentally  that 
he  had  come  here  to  end  his  days.  He  stated  this 
simply.  He  was  making  no  bid  for  sympathy.  He 
had  lost  his  wife.  He  must  have  lost  his  money,  too, 
else  he  would  not  have  been  eligible  for  nomination  as 
a  Pensioner  in  this  home  for  ''gentlemen  by  descent 
and  in  poverty."  Yet,  though  this  is  a  pleasant,  peace- 
ful retreat  in  which  to  wait  until  one  enters  the  last 
Home,  none  the  less,  when  the  writer  took  leave  of  his 
newly  acquired  friend,  there  was  a  catching  of  his 
breath  as  he  said  "Good-bye"  to  his  courteous  host. 


40     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1822- 

How  many  tragedies,  how  many  broken  hearts,  disap- 
pointed loves,  shipwrecked  careers,  may  be  sheltered 
there  !  If  ever  a  man  deserved  well  of  his  kind  and 
has  earned  the  meed  of  gentle  thoughts  after  he  has 
gone  to  another  place,  that  man,  surely,  is  Thomas 
Sutton,  Fundator  Noster^  who  provided  this  retreat 
where  the  weary  and  unfortunate  traveller  through  the 
maze  of  life  may  end  his  days  in  peace  and  comfort. 

*'  I  shall  put  all  this  in  my  book,"  Thackeray  exclaimed 
while  at  the  Charterhouse  on  Founder's  Day,  1854 ; 
and  early  in  the  following  year  he  asked  John  (after- 
wards Canon)  Irvine,  then  at  school  there,  to  introduce 
him  to  a  ''  Codd  "  (a  colloquial  term  for  a  Poor  Brother) 
because  ''Colonel  Newcome  is  going  to  be  a  '  Codd.'" 
The  lad  took  him  to  see  Captain  Light,  an  old  soldier 
whom  blindness  and  reduced  circumstances  had  com- 
pelled to  seek  the  shelter  of  the  Hospital ;  and  who, 
after  the  novelist  had  been  to  see  him,  gleefully  ex- 
claimed, ''  I'm  going  to  sit  for  Colonel  Newcome." 

Who  that  has  read  will  not  gladly  read  again  the 
novelist's  account  of  the  ancient  institution  that  con- 
cludes with  the  description  of  the  impressive  ceremonies 
of  Founder's  Day,  when  the  boys  and  the  old  black- 
gowned  pensioners  take  their  seats  in  thellighted  chapel 
where  ''  Founder's  Tomb,  with  its  grotesque  monsters, 
heraldries,  darkles  and  shines  with  the  most  wonderful 
shadows  and  lights." 

We  oldsters,  be  we  ever  so  old,  become  boys  again 
as  we  look  at  that  familiar  old  tomb,  and  think  how 
the  seats  are  altered  since  we  were  here,  and  how  the 
doctor — not  the  present  doctor,  the  doctor  of  our 
time — used  to  sit  yonder,  and  his  awful  eye  used  to 


i828]  "CODD"   NEWCOME  41 

frighten  us  shuddering  boys,  on  whom  it  lighted ;  and 
how  the  boy  next  us  imuld  kick  our  shins  during 
service  time,  and  how  the  monitor  would  cane  us 
afterwards  because  our  shins  were  kicked.  Yonder 
sit  forty  cherry-cheeked  boys,  thinking  about  home 
and  holidays  to-morrow.  Yonder  sit  some  threescore 
old  gentlemen  pensioners  of  the  hospital,  listening  to 
the  prayers  and  the  psalms.  You  hear  them  coughing 
feebly  in  the  twilight — the  old  reverend  blackgowns. 
Is  Codd  Ajax  alive,  you  wonder? — the  Cistercian  lads 
called  these  old  gentlemen  Codds,  I  know  not  where- 
fore— I  know  not  wherefore — but  is  old  Codd  Ajax 
alive,  I  wonder?  or  Codd  Soldier?  or  kind  old  Codd 
Gentleman?  or  has  the  grave  closed  over  them?  A 
plenty  of  candles  light  up  this  chapel,  and  this  scene 
of  age  and  youth,  and  early  memories,  and  pompous 
death.  How  solemn  the  well-remembered  prayers 
are,  here  uttered  again  in  the  place  where  in  child- 
hood we  used  to  hear  them  !  How  beautiful  and 
decorous  the  rite  ;  how  noble  the  ancient  words  of  the 
supplications  which  the  priest  utters,  and  to  which 
generations  of  fresh  children  and  troops  of  bygone 
seniors  have  cried  Amen  !  under  those  arches.^ 

Who  does  not  remember  the  pathetic  scenes  when 
*'Codd"  Newcome  took  up  his  residence  in  that  ancient 
foundation,  those  beautiful  sad  chapters  that  end  with 
the  death  of  this  chevalier  sans  peiir  et  sans  reproche: 

At  the  usual  evening  hour,  the  chapel  bell  began  to 
toll,  and  Thomas  Newcome's  hands  outside  the  bed 
feebly  beat  time.  And  just  as  the  last  bell  struck, 
a  peculiar  sweet  smile  shone  over  his  face,  and  he 
lifted  up  his  head  a  little,  and  quickly  said,  ''Adsum  !  " 
and  fell  back.  It  was  the  word  we  used  at  school, 
when  names  were  called  ;  and  lo  !  he,  whose  heart 
was  as  that  of  a  little  child,  had  answered  to  his  name, 
and  stood  in  the  presence  of  The  Master.'^ 

^  The  Newcomes,  chap.  Ixxxv.  ^  Ibid.,  chap.  Ixxx, 


CHAPTER    IV 

LARKBEARE   AND   CAMBRIDGE   (1828-1830) 

Thackeray  leaves  the  Charterhouse — stays  with  his  mother  and  step- 
father at  Larkbeare,  Ottery  St.  Mary — prepares  for  Cambridge — 
Larkbeare  and  Ottery  St.  Mary  in  "  Pendennis  " — "Irish  Melody" 
—  Captain  Costigan  and  Miss  Fotheringay  —  at  Cambridge  — 
Thackeray's  good  intentions — his  studies — his  amusements— his 
views  on  history — and  on  Shelley — speech  at  the  Union  on  Napoleon 
— assists  in  the  formation  of  an  Essay  Club — contributes  to  the 
Stwb — "  Tirabuctoo  " — "  Ramsbottom  Papers" — his  friendships  — 
Richard  Monckton  Milnes — Rev.  W.  H.  Brookfield  and  his  wife — 
Edward  FitzGerald — Alfred  Tennyson, 

SHORTLY  after  his  return  from  India  Major 
Carmichael-Smyth  was  appointed  Governor  of 
the  East  India  Company's  military  college  at 
Addiscombe  ;  but  in  1825  he  retired  from  the 
service,  and  settled  down  as  a  gentleman-farmer  at 
Larkbeare,  which  was  situated  on  the  confines  of  the 
parish  of  Ottery  St.  Mary,  in  the  valley  of  the  Otter, 
about  eleven  miles  from  Exeter.  There  Thackeray 
spent  his  holidays  with  his  mother  and  stepfather, 
travelling  by  the  Exeter  coach,  arriving  in  winter 
benumbed  with  cold  ;  and,  because  he  regarded  his 
school  terms  as  bondage,  anticipating  the  periods  of 
temporary  emancipation  with  even  greater  joy  than  the 
majority  of  his  fellows. 

If  you  are  paterfamilias,  and  a  worthy  kind  gentle- 
man,   no   doubt   you   have   marked   down   on    your 

42 


i828]  AT   LARKBEARE  43 

register,  17th  December  (say),  ''Boys  come  home." 
Ah,  how  carefully  that  blessed  day  is  marked  in  their 
little  calendars  !  In  my  time  it  used  to  be, — Wed- 
nesday, 13th  November,  "5  weeks  from  the  holidays"; 
Wednesday,  20th  November,  '■'■  \  weeks  from  the  holi- 
days "  ;  until  sluggish  time  sped  on,  and  we  came  to 
WEDNESDAY,    i8th  DECEMBER.    O  rapture  I^ 

Happy  were  the  days  spent  at  Larkbeare,  and  none 
more  pleasant  than  those  duringwhich,  the  Charterhouse 
training  ended,  the  young  man  prepared  himself  for 
Cambridge.  From  May  1828  until  the  following  Feb- 
ruary Major  Carmichael-Smyth  coached  him  ;  and 
perhaps  with  some  prototype  of  Pendennis's  tutor, 
Smirke,  Thackeray  ''galloped  through  the  Iliad  and  the 
Odyssey,  the  tragic  playwrights  and  the  charming, 
wicked  Aristophanes  (whom  he  vowed  to  be  the  greatest 
poet  of  all),"  and,  doubtless,  like  the  more  brilliant 
Arthur  Pendennis, 

he  went  at  such  a  pace  that,  though  he  certainly 
galloped  through  a  considerable  extent  of  the  ancient 
country,  he  clean  forgot  it  in  after-life,  and  had  only 
such  a  vague  remembrance  of  his  early  classic  course 
as  a  man  has  in  the  House  of  Commons,  let  us  say, 
who  still  keeps  up  two  or  three  quotations  ;  or  a  re- 
viewer, who,  just  for  decency's  sake,  hints  at  a  little 
Greek." 

The  months  Thackeray  spent  at  Larkbeare  made 
their  contribution  to  literature,  for  the  neighbourhood 
was  reproduced  in  "Pendennis,"  the  most  autobio- 
graphical of  Thackeray's  novels.  There  is  in  one  of  the 
sketches  illustrating  "Pendennis"  an  unmistakable 
representation  of  the  clock-tower  of  the  parish  church 

^  On  Letts' s  Diary,  ^  Pendennis,  chap,  iii. 


44     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

of  Ottery  St.  Mary,  and  the  local  descriptions  clearly 
identify  Clavering  St.  Mary,  Chatteris,  and  Baymouth, 
as  Ottery  St.  Mary,  Exeter,  and  Sidmouth,  while 
Larkbeare  figures  as  Fairoaks,  although  with  a 
novelist's  license,  Thackeray  placed  Fairoaks  close  by 
Ottery,  whereas  Larkbeare  was  a  mile  and  a  half  from 
the  village. 

Looking  at  the  little  town  from  London  Road,  as  it 
runs  by  the  lodge  at  Fairoaks,  and  seeing  the  rapid 
and  shiny  Brawl  (the  Otter)  winding  down  from  the 
town,  and  skirting  the  woods  of  Clavering  Park,  and 
the  ancient  church  tower  and  peaked  roofs  of  the 
house  rising  up  among  trees  and  old  walls,  behind 
which  swells  a  fair  background  of  sunshiny  hills  that 
stretch  from  Clavering  westward  towards  the  sea,  the 
place  looks  so  cheery  and  comfortable  that  many  a 
traveller's  heart  must  have  yearned  towards  it  from 
the  coach-top,  and  he  must  have  thought  that  it  was 
in  such  a  calm,  friendly  nook  he  would  like  to  shelter 
at  the  end  of  life's  struggle.^ 

Dr.  Cornish,  the  vicar  of  Ottery  St.  Mary,  who  was 
friendly  with  the  lad,  has  remarked  that  "the  charac- 
teristics of  '  Pendennis '  found  no  counterpart  in  the 
inhabitants  of  the  locality"  ;"  but  most  readers  of  the 
novel  are  reluctant  to  accept  this  statement.  It  is  more 
pleasant  to  think  that  the  Rev.  F.  Wapshot  of  Claver- 
ing may  have  had  an  original  in  some  master  of  the 
old  King's  School ;  and  there  is  Thackeray's  authority 
for  the  statement  that  Dr.  Cornish  furnished  the  model 
for  Dr.  Portman ;  while  the  County  Chronicle  and 
Chatteris  Champion,  to  which  young  Arthur  Pendennis 
sent  his  verses  to  be  printed  in  the  poets'  corner,  must 

^  Pendennis,  chap.  ii. 

2  Short  Notes  on  the  Church  and  Parish  of  Ottery  St.  Mary. 


i83o]  "IRISH    MELODY"  45 

have  been  the  paper  published  in  Exeter  under  the 
splendid  title  of  the  Western  Luminary,  in  which 
journal  they  first  appeared  in  print.  Unlike  Pen- 
dennis,  whose  poems  after  he  met  the  Fotheringay 
*' were  no  longer  signed  NEP  by  their  artful  composer, 
but  subscribed  EROS,"  Thackeray's  only  identified  con- 
tribution was  no  love-song,  but  an  unromantic  parody 
of  a  speech,  which  Lalor  Shell  intended  to  deliver  at 
Penenden  on  October  24,  1828,  in  favour  of  Roman 
Catholic  Emancipation,  but  which,  owing  to  the 
threatening  attitude  of  the  mob,  he  was  unable  to  do  : 
he  had,  however,  sent  copies  of  the  prepared  address 
to  the  newspapers,  where  they  duly  appeared  the  next 
morning. 

IRISH    MELODY 
(Air  :  The  Minstrel  Boy) 

Mister  Shiel  into  Kent  has  gone 
On  Penenden  Heath  you'll  find  him  ; 

Nor  think  you  that  he  came  alone, 
There's  Doctor  Doyle  behind  him. 

"  Men  of  Kent,"  said  the  little  man, 

**  If  you  hate  Emancipation, 
You're  a  set  of  fools."     He  then  began 

A  cut  and  dry  oration. 

He  strove  to  speak,  but  the  men  of  Kent 

Began  a  grievous  shouting  ; 
When  out  of  the  waggon  the  little  man  went, 

And  put  a  stop  to  his  spouting. 

'*  What  though  these  heretics  heard  me  not !  " 

Quoth  he  to  his  friend  Canonical, 
"  My  speech  is  safe  in  the  Times,  I  wot, 

And  eke  in  the  Morning  Chronicle.^'' 


46     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

The  early  chapters  of  ''Pendennis"  are,  indeed,  so 
autobiographical  that  it  is  almost  legitimate  to  wonder 
if  the  love-affairs  therein  so  graphically  described  had 
not  some  basis  in  fact,  and  if  Miss  Costigan,  known 
professionally  as  Miss  Emily  Fotheringay,  had  not 
her  prototype  in  some  member  of  the  stock  company 
at  the  old  Exeter  theatre.  It  has  been  suggested 
that  the  Fotheringay  was  a  fancy  portrait  of  the  actress, 
Eliza  O'Neill,  who  in  1819  married  William  Becher, 
then  M.P.  for  Mallow  and  afterwards,  on  William  IV's 
coronation,  created  a  baronet.  Dolphin,  who  by  the 
offer  of  a  London  engagement,  lured  the  Fotheringays 
from  Baymouth,  was  drawn  from  the  well-known 
theatrical  manager,  Alfred  Bunn,  whom  Thackeray 
nearly  a  score  of  years  before  *'Pendennis"  was  written, 
had  caricatured  in  "Flore  et  Zephyr"  and  lampooned 
in  the  National  Standard.  Certainly,  Miss  Fotherin- 
gay's  father,  the  immortal  Costigan,  existed,  though 
Thackeray  did  not  meet  him  till  years  after  he  had 
evolved  him  out  of  his  inner  consciousness. 

In  the  novel  of  "Pendennis,"  written  ten  years  ago, 
there  is  an  account  of  a  certain  Costigan,  whom  I 
had  invented  (as  I  suppose  authors  invent  their 
personages  out  of  scraps,  heel-taps,  odds  and  ends 
of  characters).  I  was  smoking  in  a  tavern  parlour  one 
night  and  this  Costigan  came  into  the  room — alive 
— the  very  man  : — the  most  remarkable  resemblance 
of  the  printed  sketches  of  the  man,  of  the  rude 
drawings  in  which  I  had  depicted  him.  He  had  the 
same  little  coat,  the  same  battered  hat,  cocked  on 
one  eye,  the  same  twinkle  in  that  eye.  "  Sir,"  said  I, 
knowing  him  to  be  an  old  friend  whom  I  had  met  in 
unknown  regions,  ''Sir,"  I  said,  ''may  I  offer  you  a 
glass  of  brandy-and-water ?  "  "  Bedad,  ye  may,''  says 
he,   ^^and  Pll  sing  ye  a  song^  tuf     Of  course,  he 


i83o]  AT  CAMBRIDGE  47 

spoke  with  an  Irish  brogue.  Of  course,  he  had  been 
in  the  army.  In  ten  minutes  he  pulled  out  an  Army- 
Agent's  account,  whereon  his  name  was  written.  A 
few  months  after  we  read  of  him  in  a  police  court.^ 

While  *' Pendennis,"  as  has  been  said,  is  frequently 
autobiographical,  the  chapters  of  that  book  which  treat 
of  its  hero  at  the  University  must  not  be  accepted  as 
a  guide  to  its  author's  life  at  Cambridge.  Indeed, 
Thackeray  was  very  careful  to  avoid  even  the  sus- 
picion of  personalities.  Oxbridge  is  an  obvious  com- 
pound of  Oxford  and  Cambridge,  skip  is  a  word 
manufactured  from  the  Oxford  scout  and  the  Cambridge 
gyp,  the  river  is  the  Camisis,  and  the  descriptions 
of  the  colleges  are  deliberately  confused ;  none  of 
Thackeray's  friends  of  that  time  are  introduced,  and 
the  authorities  of  Trinity  are  excluded.  Nor  is  there 
any  resemblance  between  the  careers  of  Pendennis 
and  his  creator  at  the  University  :  Pendennis  was  a 
dandy  of  the  first  water — Thackeray,  it  is  true,  before 
going  up,  did  order  *'  a  buckish  coat  of  blue-black 
with  a  velvet  collar,"  but  there  the  resemblance  ends. 
Pendennis  hunted,  gambled  with  (and  was  plundered 
by)  card-sharpers,  entertained  lavishly,  and  spoke  with 
great  success  at  the  Union  :  Thackeray  did  none  of 
these  things,  except  spend  money  freely  ;  and  only 
resembled  the  other  in  the  enjoyment  he  derived  from 
being  his  own  master,  the  change  from  the  strict 
routine  of  the  Charterhouse  being  a  blessed  relief. 

Every  man,  however  brief  or  inglorious  may 
have  been  his  academical  career,  must  remember  with 
kindness   and   tenderness    the   old    university   com- 

^  De  Finibus, 


48     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

rades  and  days.  The  young  man's  life  is  just 
beginning  :  the  boy's  leading  strings  are  cut,  and  he 
has  all  the  novel  delights  and  dignities  of  freedom. 
He  has  no  ideas  of  care  yet,  or  of  bad  health,  or 
of  roguery,  or  poverty,  or  to-morrow's  disappoint- 
ment. The  play  has  not  been  acted  so  often  as  to 
make  him  tired.  Though  the  after-drink,  as  we 
mechanically  go  on  repeating  it,  is  stale  and  bitter, 
how  pure  and  brilliant  was  that  first  sparkling 
draught  of  pleasure  ! — How  the  boy  rushes  at  the 
cup,  and  with  what  a  wild  eagerness  he  drains  it  !  ^ 

In  February  1829  Thackeray  left  Larkbeare  for 
Cambridge,  accompanied  by  Major  Carmichael-Smyth 
(even  as  Major  Pendennis  went  with  his  nephew 
Arthur),  staying  en  route  for  a  few  days  in  London. 
They  put  up  at  Slaughter's  Coffee  House  in  St. 
Martin's  Lane,  an  establishment  patronised  by  William 
Dobbin  and  George  Osborne,  visited  the  Charterhouse, 
and  went  to  see  Dr.  Turner,  upon  whom  his  late  pupil 
now  looked  with  a  less  unfavourable  eye,  and  Mrs. 
Ritchie,  who  recommended  the  young  man  to  the 
kind  offices  of  her  cousin.  Dr.  Thackeray,  the  Provost 
of  King's.  There  were  other  Thackerays  at  Cambridge 
whom  the  undergraduate  came  to  know ;  George, 
a  Fellow  of  King's,  and  a  third,  doctor  of  medicine, 
who  once  prescribed  for  his  young  relative,  and  refused 
to  take  a  fee.  ''What!"  he  demanded;  ''do  you 
take  me  for  a  cannibal  ?  " 

Thackeray,  who  had  been  entered  at  Trinity  College, 
was  put  into  ground-floor  rooms  in  the  Great  Court, 
opposite  the  Master's  Lodge,  and  on  the  left  of  the 
Great  Gate,   under  those  once  occupied   by   Newton. 

^  Pendennis,  chap,  xiii  (first  edition) — other  editions,  chap.  xvii. 


i83o]  HIS   STUDIES  49 

He  went  up  with  the  intention  to  become  a  reading 
man,  and  to  judge  from  a  letter  he  wrote  in  March  to 
his  mother,  no  one  could  have  started  better. 

Badger  and  I  are  going  to  read  Greek  Play  to- 
gether from  eleven  until  twelve  every  day.  I  am 
getting  more  and  more  into  the  way  of  reading  now. 
I  go  to  Fawcett  every  other  morning  from  eight  to 
nine,  to  Fisher  (the  Mathematical  lecturer)  from  nine 
to  ten,  and  to  Starr  (the  Classical  one)  from  ten  to 
eleven;  then  with  Badger  from  eleven  till  twelve; 
twelve  to  half-past  one  Euclid  or  Algebra,  and  an 
hour  in  the  evening  at  some  one  or  other  of  the 
above,  or  perhaps  at  some  of  the  collateral  reading 
connected  with  Thucydides  or  ^schylus.  This  is 
my  plan,  which  I  trust  to  be  able  to  keep.^ 

Not  long  afterwards  he  told  his  mother  he  had  been 
to  see  ''our  library,"  and  had  borrowed  from  it  five 
stout  quartos.  He  was  apparently  determined  to  win 
the  approval  of  Whewell,  his  tutor,  and  Fawcett,  his 
coach,  whom  he  described  as  a  "most  desperate  good- 
hearted  bore." 

I  am  just  beginning  to  find  out  the  beauties  of 
the  Greek  Play  ;  I  pursue  a  plan  of  reading  only  the 
Greek  without  uttering  a  word  of  English,  and  thus 
having  the  language  in  itself,  which  I  find  adds 
to  my  pleasure  in  a  very  extraordinary  manner  and 
will,  if  I  pursue  it,  lead  me,  I  hope,  to  think  in 
Greek,  and  of  course  will  give  me  more  fluency.^ 

It  was  doubtless  the  hope  of  being  able  to  "think  in 
Greek"  that  inspired  Thackeray  with  the  desire  to 
compete  for  a  college  prize  offered  for  the  best  essay  on 
"The  Influence  of  the  Homeric  Poems  on  the  Religion, 

^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  69.  2  md,,  p.  67. 

I.— E 


so     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

the  Politics,  the  Literature  and  Society  of  Greece "  ; 
but  even  at  the  outset  he  harboured  a  doubt :  ''it  will 
require  much  reading,  which  I  fear  I  have  not  the  time 
to  bestow  upon  it."  He  soon  found  he  had  not  the 
time  to  bestow  on  it.  Indeed,  as  the  novelty  wore  off, 
the  new  broom  did  not  sweep  so  thoroughly,  and  the 
"plan  which  I  trust  to  be  able  to  keep"  was  soon 
abandoned  in  favour  of  pursuits  more  congenial.  "  If 
I  get  a  fifth  class  in  the  examination  I  shall  be  lucky," 
he  wrote  home  in  May  ;  but  he  was  put  in  the  fourth 
class  where,  we  have  it  on  the  authority  of  Dr.  Thomp- 
son, ''clever  non-reading  men  were  put,  as  in  a  limbo." 
Thackeray  threw  himself  gleefully  into  the  usual 
undergraduate  amusements,  and  never  allowed  his 
studies  to  interfere  with  supper-parties,  where,  "though 
not  talkative,  rather  observant,"  he  enjoyed  the  humour 
of  the  hours  and  would  troll  "Old  King  Cole"  and 
other  favourite  ditties  ;  nor  was  he  too  occupied  to  play 
chess  and  practise  fencing,  or  (as  he  was  careful  to  re- 
cord) fall  asleep  over  John  Gait's  "Life  and  Administra- 
tion of  Cardinal  Wolsey."  Reading,  however,  was  still 
his  principal  delight,  and  he  now  read  poetry  as  well 
as  the  old  English  novels.  History,  too,  came  in  for  a 
share  of  his  attention,  and  all  the  days  of  his  life  he 
advocated  the  study  of  that  subject.  "  Read  a  tremen- 
dous lot  of  history,"  he  advised  a  young  cousin  many 
years  later  ;  though  it  must  be  admitted  that,  referring 
to  this  same  subject,  he  declared  to  Cordy  Jeaffreson  : 
"There's  nothing  new,  and  there's  nothing  true,  and 
it  don't  much  signify "  ;  ^  but  he  realised  to  the  full 
its  value  even  after  he  had  become  acquainted  with  the 

*  J.  C.  Jeaffreson  :  A  Booh  of  Recollections,  Vol.  I,  p.  211. 


1830]  READS   SHELLEY  51 

sad  fact  that  great  deeds  arise  all  too  often  from  mean 
causes. 

The  dignity  of  history  sadly  diminishes  as  we 
grow  better  acquainted  with  the  materials  which  com- 
pose it.  In  our  orthodox  history-books  the  characters 
move  on  as  a  gaudy  play-house  procession,  a  glitter- 
ing pageant  of  kings  and  warriors,  and  stately 
ladies,  majestically  appearing  and  passing  away. 
Only  he  who  sits  very  near  to  the  stage  can  discover 
of  what  stuff  the  spectacle  is  made.  The  kings  are 
poor  creatures,  taken  from  the  dregs  of  the  company; 
the  noble  knights  are  dirty  dwarfs  in  tin  foil  ;  the 
fair  ladies  are  painted  hags  with  cracked  feathers 
and  soiled  trains.  One  wonders  how  gas  and  dis- 
tance could  ever  have  rendered  them  so  bewitching.^ 

At  the  University,  as  at  school,  Thackeray,  by  his 
love  of  books,  was  incited  to  take  an  active  interest  in 
literature.  Shelley  was  then  the  rage  at  Cambridge, 
and  Thackeray,  like  the  rest,  was  attracted  by  the 
magic  of  that  great  wonderful  poetry. 

When  I  come  home  I  will  bring  with  me  ''The 
Revolt  of  Islam  "  by  Percy  Bysshe  Shelley  [he  wrote 
to  his  mother].  It  is  (in  my  opinion)  a  most  won- 
derful poem — though  the  story  is  absurd,  and  the 
republican  sentiments  conveyed  in  it,  if  possible, 
more  absurd.^ 

But  soon  he  altered  his  mind  about  introducing  a 
revolutionary  work  into  the  peaceful  household  at 
Larkbeare. 

Shelley  appears  to  me  to  have  been  a  man  of  very 
strong  and  good  feelings,  all  perverted  by  the  absurd 

^  Review  of  The  "  Duchess  of  Marlborough's  Private  Correspond- 
ence" in  the  Times,  January  6,  1838. 

"^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  70. 


52     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

creed  which  he  was  pleased  to  uphold  ;  a  man  of 
high  powers,  which  his  conceit  led  him  to  over-rate, 
and  his  religion  prompted  him  to  misuse.  ...  I 
think  I  said  I  should  bring  home  Shelley's  '*  Revolt  of 
Islam,"  but  I  have  rather  altered  my  opinion,  for  it  is 
an  odd  kind  of  book,  containing  poetry  which  would 
induce  me  to  read  it  through,  and  sentiments  which 
might  strongly  incline  one  to  throw  it  into  the  fire.^ 

However,  Shelley  still  retained  his  fascination  over 
the  young  student,  and  when  the  scheme  was  mooted 
of  a  university  magazine  to  be  called  the  Chimera^ 
Thackeray  volunteered  an  essay  on  the  poet,  and  wrote 
it  at  Paris  in  the  Long  Vacation  of  1829  ;  but  the 
bibliographers  have  not  traced  the  publication  either 
of  the  essay  or  the  periodical.  Thackeray  also  intended 
to  speak  at  the  Union  when  Shelley  was  the  subject  of 
debate,  but  the  speech  was  not  delivered,  for  the  meet- 
ing was  adjourned,  and  the  orator's  courage  failed 
him  in  the  interval.  The  only  recorded  instance  of 
Thackeray  taking  part  in  a  discussion  at  the  Union 
was  when  the  character  of  Napoleon  was  the  theme. 

I  have  made  a  fool  of  myself  [he  wrote  to  his 
mother  in  March  1829] ;  I  have  rendered  myself  a 
public  character  :  I  have  exposed  myself.  I  spouted 
at  the  Union. 

Unhappily  no  one  thought  it  worth  while  to  record 
his  attitude  towards  le  petit  Caporal.  What  were  his 
sentiments  at  that  date  towards  the  great  filibuster? 
Did  he  show  the  average  Englishman's  hatred  of  the 
French?  Was  he  carried  away  by  the  genius  of  that 
great    general    and    legislator?    or    did    he    then    in 

*  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  70. 


i83o]  AN    ESSAY   CLUB  53 

feebler  tones   pipe   the   tune   that   later    he    sang    so 
clearly  ? 

He  captured  many  thousand  guns  ; 

He  wrote  "  The  Great "  before  his  name  ; 
And,  dying,  only  left  his  sons 

The  recollection  of  his  shame. 

Though  more  than  half  the  world  was  his, 

He  died  without  a  rood  his  own. 
And  borrowed  from  his  enemies 

Six  feet  of  ground  to  lie  upon. 

He  fought  a  thousand  glorious  wars, 
And  more  than  half  the  world  was  his  ; 

And  somewhere  now,  in  yonder  stars. 
Can  tell,  mayhap,  what  greatness  is?- 

Who  maun  to  Cupar  maun  to  Cupar,  and  Thackeray's 
desire  to  write  found  outlets  from  the  first. 

We  are  going  to  establish  an  Essay  Club  [he  told 
his  mother  on  April  29,  1829].  There  are  as  yet  but 
four  of  us,  Browne,  Moody,  Young,  and  myself, 
all  Carthusians.  We  want  no  more  Charterhouse 
men  ;  if  we  get  ten  we  shall  scarcely  have  to  write 
three  essays  a  year,  so  that  it  will  take  up  but  little 
of  our  time.^ 

Though  no  further  record  of  the  Essay  Club  exists, 
it  seems  probable  that  it  came  into  being,  and  was 
taken  by  its  members  with  great  seriousness. 

Are  we  the  same  men  now  that  .  .  .  delivered 
or  heard  those  essays  and  speeches  so  simple,  so 
pompous,  so  ludicrously  solemn  ;  parodied  so  art- 
lessly from   books,  and  spoken  with  smug  chubby 

^  The  Chronicle  of  the  Drum  (1841). 

"  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  67. 


54     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

faces,  and  such  an  admirable  aping  of  wisdom  and 
gravity.^ 

Three  essays  a  year  did  not  exhaust  Thackeray's 
vigour,  and  he  was  the  mainstay  of  a  small  literary 
club  that  included  John  Allen,  Henry  Alford,  William 
Hepworth  Thompson,  Robert  Hindes  Groome,  and 
James  Reynolds  Young  of  Caius.  ''I  don't  know  that 
we  ever  agreed  upon  a  name,"  Dr.  Thompson  has 
mentioned.  ''Alford  proposed  the  'Covey'  because  we 
'  made  such  a  noise  when  we  got  up ' — to  speak,  that 
is  ;  but  it  was  left  for  further  consideration.  I  think 
Thackeray's  subject  was  '  Duelling,'  on  which  there 
was  much  diversity  of  opinion."^ 

Thackeray's  chief  pleasure  was  derived  from  his 
connection  with  two  little  university  papers,  founded 
by  his  fellow-student  at  Trinity,  W.  G.  Lettsom, 
later  Her  Majesty's  charge  d'affaires  in  Uruguay. 
Lettsom  (who  afterwards  declined  the  dedication  of 
"The  Book  of  Snobs")  had  early  in  1829  projected  a 
little  weekly  paper,  which  bore  the  title.  The  Snob :  A 
Literary  and  Scientific  Journal  NOT  Conducted  by 
Members  of  THE  University.  The  word  "  Snob"  was 
here  used,  not  in  reference  to  "  one  who  meanly  admires 
mean  things,"  but  to  denote  a  townsman  in  contra- 
distinction to  a  gownsman.  "Though  your  name  be 
Snob,"  Thackeray  wrote  to  the  editor,  in  the  note  pre- 
fixed to  "  Timbuctoo,"  "  I  trust  you  will  not  refuse  this 
tiny  poem  of  a  gownsman."  The  Snob  was  doubtless 
so  called  because,  as  its  contents  were  for  the  most 
part  harmless  squibs  directed  against  the  University,  it 

^  Pendennis,  chap.  xix. 

^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  72. 


i83o]  "TIMBUCTOO"  55 

was  thought  to  add  to  the  humour  by  a  pretence  that 
it  was  written  by  those  unconnected  with  Alma  Mater; 
while  the  explanatory  ''Literary  and  Scientific  Journal" 
was  also  a  poor  joke — the  contents  being  solely  would- 
be-amusing  pieces  in  prose  and  verse. 

Thackeray  soon  became  a  contributor,  and  his  skit 
on  "Timbuctoo,"  the  subject  of  the  English  poem  for  the 
Chancellor's  medal  (won  by  Alfred  Tennyson),  attracted 
some  attention. 

A  "poem  of  mine"  hath  appeared  in  a  weekly 
periodical  here  published,  and  called  the  Snob.  .  .  . 
"Timbuctoo"  received  much  laud.  I  could  not  help 
finding  out  that  I  was  very  fond  of  this  same  praise. 
The  men  knew  not  the  author,  but  praised  the  poem. 
How  eagerly  I  sucked  it  in  !     "All  is  vanity  "  !  ^ 

In  Africa  (a  quarter  of  the  world) 
Men's  skins  are  black,  their  hair  is  crisp  and  curled  ; 
And  somewhere  there,  unknown  to  public  view, 
A  mighty  city  lies,  called  Timbuctoo. 

Thus  the  opening.  Then  follows  a  description  of  the 
fauna  and  flora  of  Timbuctoo,  of  a  lion-hunt,  of  the 
home-life  of  the  inhabitants  and  the  misery  caused  by 
the  introduction  of  slavery  ;  the  whole  concluding  with 
a  prophecy  of  dire  disaster  to  Europe. 

The  day  shall  come  when  Albion's  self  shall  feel 
Stern  Afric's  wrath  and  writhe  'neath  Afric's  steel. 
I  see  her  tribes  the  hill  of  glory  mount, 
And  sell  their  sugars  on  their  own  account, 
While  round  her  throne  the  prostrate  nations  come, 
Sue  for  her  rice  and  barter  for  her  rum.^ 

^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  71. 
2  The  Snob,  April  30,  1829. 


56     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

It  was  a  feeble  production  ;  and  indeed  there  is  little 
amusement  to  be  derived  from  a  perusal  of  this  and 
other  farcical  absurdities  contributed  to  the  little  paper, 
which,  however,  served  its  purpose  in  amusing  its 
authors. 

On  Monday  night  myself  and  the  editor  of  the 
Snob  sat  down  to  write  the  Snob  for  Thursday.  We 
began  at  nine  and  finished  at  two  ;  but  I  was  so 
afflicted  with  laughter  that  I  came  away  quite  ill.  .  .  . 
The  Snob  goeth  on  and  prospereth.  I  have  put 
"Genevieve"  into  it  with  a  little  alteration.  Here  is 
a  specimen  of  my  wit  in  the  shape  of  an  advertisement 
therein  inserted  : — ''Sidney  Sussex  College.  Wanted 
a  few  Freshmen.  Apply  at  the  Butteries,  where  the 
smallest  contribution  will  be  gratefully  received."  ^ 

The  contributions  of  Thackeray  to  the  Siiob  and  its 
successor,  the  Goimisman^  were  neither  better  nor 
worse  than  the  average  undergraduate  production ; 
and  it  will  suffice  to  make  a  passing  reference  to 
those  letters  signed  "Dorothea  Julia  Ramsbottom," 
inept  parodies  of  Theodore  Hook's  Mrs.  Ramsbottom, 
which  are  interesting,  only  because  in  them  may,  per- 
haps, be  detected  the  germ  from  which,  seven  years 
later,  sprang  the  later  correspondence  of  the  erudite 
Mr.  Yellowplush.2 

Though  Thackeray  left  Cambridge  in  June  1830 
without  taking  a  degree,  his  residence  there  was  of 
value   to  him.     He  read  widely   if    not   deeply,   and 

^  C.  p.  Johnson  :  Early  Writings  of  Thackeray,  p.  7. 

^  Thackeray's  contributions  to  the  Snob  and  the  Gownsman  have  been 
collected  by  the  present  writer,  and  printed  in  "Thackeray's  Stray 
Papers"  (1901),  and  again  in  Macmillan's  edition  of  Thackeray's  Col- 
lected Works,  Vol.  IX,  "  Burlesques  .  .  •  Juvenilia,"  pp.  389-401. 


1830]  FELLOW-STUDENTS  57 

laid  the  foundation-stone  of  his  future  works:  ^^Now 
is  the  time  to  lay  in  stock,"  he  said  in  later  days  to 
a  young  man  at  college  ;  **  I  wish  I  had  had  five 
years'  reading  before  I  took  to  our  trade  ";^  but  the 
greatest  benefits  he  derived  from  his  stay  at  the  Univer- 
sity were  those  delightful  and  enduring  friendships 
that  date  from  this  period. 

Perhaps  never  before  or  since  has  a  college  housed 
at  the  same  time  so  many  gifted  young  men  as  Trinity 
boasted  in  the  days  when  Thackeray  was  there. 
Amongst  them  were  Alfred  Tennyson  and  his 
brothers,  Charles  and  Frederick,  whose  '^  Poems  by 
Two  Brothers  "  had  appeared  in  1827  ;  Joseph  Williams 
Blakesley,  afterwards  Dean  of  Lincoln  ;  James  Sped- 
ding,  the  author  of  the  standard  Life  and  Works  of 
Bacon ;  Arthur  Hallam  and  Thomas  Sunderland, 
whose  promising  careers  were  brought  to  untimely 
ends ;  Ralph  Bernal,  afterwards  known  as  Bernal- 
Osborne  ;  Charles  Rann  Kennedy  and  Edward 
Horsman  ;  John  Sterling,  the  subject  of  Carlyle's 
memoir ;  Edmund  Law  Lushington,  the  famous 
Greek  scholar,  and  the  husband  of  the  sister  of 
Tennyson,  the  epilogue  to  whose  **In  Memoriam  "  is 
an  epithalamium  on  the  marriage ;  John,  afterwards 
Archdeacon,  Allen  ;  Henry  Alford,  who  became  Dean 
of  Canterbury ;  William  Hepworth  Thompson,  sub- 
sequently Master  of  Trinity ;  Richard  Chenevix 
Trench,  one  day  to  be  Archbishop  of  Dublin  ;  Alex- 
ander William  Kinglake,  the  future  author  of 
''Eothen"  and  historian  of  the  Crimean  War;  John 
Mitchell  Kemble,  Richard  Monckton  Milnes,  afterwards 

^  Hannay  :  Short  Memoir  of  Thackeray,  p.  23, 


58     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

first  Baron  Houghton  ;  William  Henry  Brookfield  and 
Edward  FitzGerald.  Most  of  these  men  had  given 
some  indication  of  their  talents  even  at  this  early  date, 
and,  for  that  reason,  it  is  somewhat  surprising  to  find 
Thackeray  in  the  set,  for  he  had  come  from  the 
Charterhouse  without  any  particular  reputation,  and 
nothing  he  did  at  the  University  showed  promise  of 
future  greatness  or  even  of  considerable  ability : 
**We  did  not  see  in  him  even  the  germ  of  those 
literary  powers  which,  under  the  stern  influences  of 
necessity,  he  afterwards  developed,"  Dr.  Thompson 
has  admitted  ;  and  no  other  contemporary  has  come 
forward  to  controvert  the  statement.  Once  Thackeray 
obtained  the  entree,  however,  his  invariable  good- 
temper  and  his  keen  sense  of  humour  made  his  place 
secure.  With  some  of  them,  as  it  has  been  said,  he 
formed  an  Essay  Club,  but  with  the  majority  his  rela- 
tions were  purely  social. 

Now  the  boy  has  grown  bigger.  He  has  got 
a  black  gown  and  cap,  something  like  the  dervish. 
He  is  at  a  table,  with  ever  so  many  bottles  on  it,  and 
fruit,  and  tobacco  ;  and  other  young  dervishes  come 
in.  They  seem  as  if  they  were  singing.  To  them 
enters  an  old  moollah,  he  takes  down  their  names, 
and  orders  them  all  to  go  to  bed.^ 

Besides  his  old  schoolfellow  Venables,  who  was  at 
Jesus,  Thackeray  at  Cambridge  contracted  friendships 
that  endured  through  life  with  James  White,  of  Pem- 
broke College,  subsequently  Vicar  of  Loxley  and 
author  of  *'The  Eighteen  Christian  Centuries,"  "The 
Earl  of  Gowrie  :  A  Tragedy,"  and  many  other  works. 

^  De  Juventute, 


i83o]  REV.   W.   H.   BROOKFIELD  59 

O  Jimmy,  and  Johnny,  and  Willy,  friends  of  my 
youth  !  .  .  .  how  should  he  who  knows  you,  not 
respect  you  and  your  calling?  May  this  pen  never 
write  a  pennyworth  again,  if  it  ever  cast  ridicule 
upon  either  !  ^ 

"Willy"  was  William  Brookfield,  of  whom  some- 
thing will  presently  be  said,  and  "Johnny  "  was  John 
Allen,  who  subsequently  for  a  while  lived  in  Great 
Coram  Street,  opposite  Thackeray,  when  FitzGerald 
sent  him  a  message  ;  "  Give  my  love  to  Thackeray 
from  your  upper  window  across  the  street." 

Very  pleasant  always  were  the  relations  between 
Thackeray  and  Richard  Monckton  Milnes,  and 
Thackeray  was  a  frequent  visitor  at  Fryston,  "a 
house,"  he  said  to  his  host,  the  elder  Monckton 
Milnes,  paying  him  a  compliment  for  permission  to 
smoke  everywhere  but  in  Richard's  own  rooms,  "a 
house  which  combines  the  freedom  of  the  tavern  with 
the  elegancies  of  the  chateau.'*''  On  Thackeray's  return 
from  Paris,  after  the  failure  of  the  National  Standard^ 
Monckton  Milnes  was  one  of  the  first  to  be  informed 
of  the  ex-newspaper's  correspondent's  arrival. 

The  Young  Chevalier  is  arrived,  and  to  be  heard 
of  at  the  Bedford  Hotel  in  Covent  Garden,  or  at  the 
Garrick  Club,  King  Street.  He  accepts  breakfasts, — 
and  dinners  still  more  willingly.^ 

We  may  be  siire  many  breakfasts  and  dinners  were 
offered  and  taken.  It  was  to  Monckton  Milnes  more 
than  to  anyone  else  that  Thackeray  went  for  advice 
during  the  years  of  weary  waiting  for   success,    and 

^  The  Booh  of  Snobs,  chap.  xi.     On  Clerical  Snobs. 

^  Wemyss  Reid  :  Life  of  Lord  Houghton,  Vol.  I,  p.  426. 


6o     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

before  leaving  England  to  pay  his  first  visit  to  America 
he  sent  his  old  friend  a  note  of  acknowledgment. 

A  word  and  a  God  bless  you  and  yours  at 
parting,  I  was  thinking  of  our  acquaintance  the 
other  day,  and  how  it  had  been  marked  on  your 
part  by  constant  kindnesses,  along  which  I  can  trace 
it.  Thank  you  for  them,  and  let  me  shake  your 
hand,  and  say  Vale  and  Salved 

During  the  Easter  Parliamentary  recess  of  1863, 
Thackeray  went  to  Fryston  for  the  last  time,  and  on  the 
following  Christmas  Eve,  Monckton  Milnes,  now  Lord 
Houghton,  received  a  sheet  of  notepaper,  headed  Palace 
Green,  Kensington,  upon  which  no  words  were  written, 
but  which  bore  a  little  coloured  sketch  of  a  robin- 
redbreast  perched  upon  the  coronet  of  a  baron — 
Thackeray's  unconscious  farewell,  for,  ere  this  greeting 
reached  the  newly  created  peer,  the  artist  had  passed 
away.  Monckton  Milnes  was  much  grieved  by  the 
news  of  Thackeray's  death,  and  he  was  very  angry  that 
the  authorities  did  not  ask  permission  to  bury  the 
novelist  within  the  precincts  of  Westminster  Abbey. 
He  drew  an  ''Historical  Contrast"  between  this 
behaviour  and  the  conduct  of  Dr.  Sprat,  Bishop  of 
Rochester  and  Dean  of  Westminster,  on  the  death  of 
Dryden,  who 

*'  Waited  for  no  suggestive  prayer, 

But,  ere  one  day  clos'd  o'er  the  scene, 
Craved,  as  a  boon,  to  lay  him  there;  " 

and  he  paid  a  tribute  to  the  great  humorist  of  his  day 
in  the  concluding  stanzas  : 

1  Wemyss  Reid  :  Life  of  Lord  Houghton,  Vol.  II,  p  112. 


i83o]         RICHARD   MONCKTON   MILNES  6i 

**  O  gentle  censor  of  our  age  ! 

Prime  master  of  our  ampler  tongue  ! 
Whose  word  of  wit  and  generous  page 
Were  never  wrath,  except  with  wrong, — 

Fielding — without  the  manner's  dross,    . 

Scott — with  a  spirit's  larger  room  ; — 
What  Prelate  deems  thy  grave  his  loss  ? 

What  Halifax  erects  thy  tomb  ? 

But,  mayhap,  he, — who  could  so  draw 
The  hidden  great, — the  humble  wise, 

Yielding  with  them  to  God's  good  law. 
Makes  the  Pantheon  where  he  lies."^ 

When,  a  little  before  the  end  of  his  life,  one  of  his 
daughters  asked  Thackeray  which  friends  he  had  loved 
the  best,  he  replied,  *' Why,  dear  old  Fitz,  of  course, 
and  Brookfield." 

Thackeray's  intimacy  with  Brookfield  was  lifelong, 
and  when  in  1841  Brookfield  married  (the  daughter  of 
Sir  Charles  Elton  of  Clevedon),  it  was  eagerly  and 
heartily  extended  to  his  wife. 

A  friend  I  had,  and  at  his  side — the  story  dates  from  seven 

long  year — 
One  day  I  found  a  blushing  bride,  a  tender  lady  kind  and 

dear ! 
They  took  me  in,  they  pitied  me,  they  gave  me  kindly  words 

and  cheer, 
A  kinder  welcome  who  shall  see  than  yours,  O  friend  and 

lady  dear?  ^ 

A  volume  of  Thackeray's  letters  to  the  Brookfields 
has  been  published,   and  from  a  perusal  of  it  may  be 

^  Cornhill  Magazine,  February  1864. 

*  Charles  and  Frances  Brookfield  :  Mrs.  Brookfield  and  her  Circle. 
Vol.  I,  p.  113. 


62      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

seen  how  delightful  were  the  relations  between  them. 
The  novelist  was  never  too  busy  to  write  to  "  My  dear 
Vieux  "  and  his.  wife  from  town,  from  the  Continent, 
from  New  York,  long  chatty  letters,  often  about  trifles, 
sometimes  about  grave  matters.  "  I  tell  you  and 
William  most  things,"  he  said  to  Mrs.  Brookfield. 
Their  house  was  always  open  to  him  ;  their  regard  for 
him  was  carried  to  his  children;  and  Mrs.  Brookfield, 
on  the  last  day  of  her  life,  quoted  to  Thackeray's  sur- 
viving daughter  a  passage  from  the  great  novelist's 
works  : 

Try  to  frequent  the  company  of  your  betters.  In 
books  and  life  that  is  the  most  wholesome  society  ; 
learn  to  admire  rightly  ;  the  great  pleasure  of  life  is 
that.  Note  what  the  great  men  admired ;  they 
admired  great  things  ;  narrow  spirits  admire  basely 
and  worship  meanly.^ 

Thackeray  portrayed  his  old  schoolfellow  in  *' Travels 
in  London  "  as  the  good-natured  curate,  Frank  White- 
stock  ;  and  he  introduced  some  traits  of  Mrs.  Brookfield 
into  the  composite  character  of  Amelia  Osborne  {nee 
Sedley). 

In  their  earlier  years  Thackeray  and  FitzGerald  were 
regular  correspondents,  and  ''Old  Fitz,"  or  "Cupid," 
or  "  Ned,"  ''  Neddibus,"  "  Neddikins,"  or  ''  Yedward," 
as  his  friend  called  him,  was  able  to  fill  a  volume  with 
the  drawings  sent  him  by  the  other,  whose  habit  it 
was  to  illustrate  his  letters.  FitzGerald  used  to  stay 
with  his  friend  in  Great  Coram  Street  (Jorum  Street, 
Thackeray  called  it)  and  also  in  Young  Street,  and  the 
novelist   loved   to   have   him   in   the   house.     "He  is 

'  English  Humorists — Pope. 


i83o]  EDWARD   FITZGERALD  63 

a  delightful  companion  ;  the  only  drawback  is  we 
talk  so  much  of  books  and  poems  that  neither  do  much 
work."  The  poet's  diary  contains  many  entries,  and 
his  letters  many  references,  concerning  his  great  literary 
brother.  He  tells  how,  in  December  1832,  Thackeray 
came  to  see  him  before  returning  to  Devonshire.  "  He 
came  very  opportunely  to  divert  my  Blue  Devils  :  not- 
withstanding, we  do  not  see  very  much  of  each  other  : 
and  he  has  now  so  many  friends  (especially  the  Bullers) 
that  he  has  no  such  wish  for  my  society.  He  is  as  full 
of  good  humour  and  kindness  as  ever."^  Yet  they 
continued  to  correspond  when  Thackeray  was  abroad, 
and  met  frequently  after  his  return,  though  after  1848 
or  1849  they  saw  less  of  each  other. 

"  I  am  going  to  Spedding's  rooms  this  very  evening: 
and  there  I  believe  Thackeray,  Venables,  etc.,  are 
to  be,"  FitzGerald  wrote  to  Frederick  Tennyson  on 
April  17,  1850.  *'  I  hope  not  a  large  assembly,  for 
I  get  shyer  and  shyer  even  of  those  I  know."  It  is  in 
this  letter  that  he  said,  "  Thackeray  is  in  such  a  great 
world  that  I  am  afraid  of  him  ;  he  gets  tired  of  me, 
and  we  are  content  to  regard  each  other  at  a  distance."- 
But  Thackeray  never  tired  of  his  old  college  friend. 
**  I  am  glad  you  like  it,"  he  wrote  after  hearing  of  the 
other's  approval  of  "Vanity  Fair" — and  the  explanation 
of  the  subsequent  irregular  correspondence  and  the  rare 
meetings  may  be  traced  to  FitzGerald's  increasing  love 
of  seclusion.  But,  despite  the  latter's  complaint,  there 
was  no  coldness  in  their  hearts.  "And  so  dear  old 
Thackeray  is   really   going   to   America,"    FitzGerald 

-  Letters  of  Edward  FitzGerald,  Vol.  I,  p.  i8. 
"^  Ibid.,  Vol.  I,  p.  295. 


64     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

exclaimed,  hearing  the  news.  **  I  must  fire  him  a 
letter  of  farewell."  And  he  wrote  to  him,  and  told  him 
of  a  provision  he  had  made  in  his  will.  ''You  see," 
he  said,  "you  can  owe  me  no  thanks  for  giving  what 
I  can  no  longer  use  when  I  go  down  into  the  pit.  .  .  ."  ^ 
And  Thackeray's  reply  to  his  "dearest  old  friend,"  just 
before  he  sailed,  breathes  a  deep  sense  of  love. 

I  mustn't  go  away  without  shaking  your  hand 
and  saying  Farewell  and  God  Bless  you.  If  any- 
thing happens  to  me,  you  by  these  presents  must 
get  ready  the  Book  of  Ballads  which  you  like,  and 
which  I  had  not  time  to  prepare  before  embarking 
on  this  voyage.  And  I  should  like  my  daughters  to 
remember  that  you  are  the  best  and  oldest  friend  their 
Father  ever  had,  and  that  you  would  act  as  such  : 
as  my  literary  executor  and  so  forth.  My  books 
would  yield  a  something  as  copyrights  :  and  should 
anything  occur,  I  have  commissioned  friends  in 
good  places  to  get  a  Pension  for  my  poor  little  wife. 
.  .  .  Does  not  this  sound  gloomily?  Well  :  who 
knows  what  Fate  is  in  store  :  and  I  feel  not  at  all 
downcast,  but  very  grave  and  solemn,  just  at  the 
brink  of  a  great  voyage.  .  .  .  The  greatest  comfort 
I  have  in  thinking  about  my  dear  old  boy  is  that 
recollection  of  our  youth  when  we  loved  each  other 
as  I  do  now  while  I  write  Farewell  !  ^ 

FitzGerald,  late  in  1856,  went  to  town,  where  he 
hoped  to  catch  sight  of  "  old  Thackeray,  who,  Donne 
wrote  me  word,  came  suddenly  on  him  in  Pall  Mall 
the  other  day ;  while  all  the  people  suppose  '  The 
Newcomes'  was  being  indited  at  Rome  or  Naples." 
"  Oddly  enough,"  he  wrote  to  E.  B.  Cowell  on 
January  26,    1857,    "as   I    finished   the  last  sentence, 

^  Letters  of  Ed'<vard  FitzGerald,  Vol.  II,  p.  lo. 
2  Ibid.y  Vol.  II,  p.  9. 


i83o]  "OLD   THACKERAY"  65 

Thackeray  was  announced  ;  he  came  in,  looking  gray, 
grand,  and  good-humoured  ;  and  I  held  up  this  Letter 
and  told  him  whom  it  was  written  to,  and  he  sends  his 
Love !  He  goes  lecturing  all  over  England  ;  has 
fifty  pounds  for  each  lecture  ;  and  says  he  is  ashamed 
of  the  fortune  he  is  making.  But  he  deserves  it."  ^  A 
few  days  after  FitzGerald  went  to  hear  his  friend's  dis- 
course on  George  HL  ''Very  agreeable  to  me,  though 
I  did  not  think  highly  of  the  lecture." 

This  must  have  been  one  of  the  last  meetings,  if, 
indeed,  it  was  not  the  last  meeting,  of  the  two  men. 
But  the  long  interval  did  not  deaden  their  feelings, 
and  news  of  his  friend's  death,  in  1863,  came  as  a  great 
shock  to  FitzGerald.  "  A  great  figure  has  sunk  under 
earth,"  he  said  to  George  Crabbe,  grandson  of  the  poet; 
and  in  a  letter,  dated  January  7,  1864,  asking  Samuel 
Laurence  for  particulars  of  his  two  portraits  of 
Thackeray,  he  wrote  :  "  I  am  surprised  almost  to  find 
how  much  I  am  thinking  of  him  :  so  little  as  I  had 
seen  of  him  for  the  last  ten  years  ;  not  once  for  the  last 
five.  I  have  been  told — by  you,  for  one — that  he  was 
spoiled.  I  am  glad  therefore  that  I  have  scarce  seen 
him  since  he  was  '  old  Thackeray.'  I  keep  reading  his 
'  Newcomes  '  of  nights,  and  as  it  were  hear  him  saying 
so  much  in  it ;  and  it  seems  to  me  as  if  he  might  be 
coming  up  my  Stairs,  and  about  to  come  (singing) 
into  my  Room,  as  in  old  Charlotte  Street,  etc.  thirty 
years  ago."^ 

FitzGerald  had  throughout  followed  Thackeray's 
career  with  great  interest,  and,  as  the  many  criticisms 

^  Letters  of  Edward  FitzGerald,  WoX.  II.,  p.  52. 
2  Ibid.,  Vol.  II,  p.  171. 
I. — F 


66     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1828- 

in  his  letters  testify,  read  all  that  his  friend  wrote. 
'*As  to  Thackeray's  "  (books)  "they  are  terrible  ;  I  really 
look  at  them  on  the  shelf,  and  am  half  afraid  to  touch 
them,"  he  wrote  in  1875  to  Samuel  Laurence.  *'  He,  you 
know,  could  go  deeper  into  the  springs  of  Common 
Action  than  these  Ladies  (Miss  Austen  and  George 
Eliot) ;  wonderful  he  is,  but  not  delightful,  which  one 
thirsts  for  as  one  gets  old  and  dry."^  And  finally,  com- 
paring the  literary  merits  of  Disraeli  with  Thackeray, 
he  said:  ''The  book  (*  Lothair ')  is  like  a  pleasant 
Magic  Lantern  ;  when  it  is  over,  I  shall  forget  it,  and 
shall  want  to  return  to  what  I  do  not  forget,  some  of 
Thackeray's  monumental  figures  of  pauvre  et  triste 
htimaiiite,  as  old  Napoleon  calls  it :  Humanity  in  its 
Depths,  not  in  its  superficial  Appearances."  ^ 

Thackeray  and  Tennyson  formed  a  mutual  admiration 
society  a  deiix.  Thackeray,  ill  in  bed,  eagerly  devoured 
"The  Idylls  of  the  King."  "Oh!  I  must  write  to  him 
now  for  this  pleasure,  this  delight,  this  splendour  of 
happiness  which  I  have  been  enjoying,"  he  said  in  a 
note  to  the  poet,^  who  declared  that  this  tribute  gave 
him  "more  pleasure  than  all  the  journals  and  month- 
lies and  quarterlies  which  have  come  across  me ;  not  so 
much  from  your  being  the  Great  Novelist  I  hope  as 
from  your  being  my  good  old  friend  or  from  your 
being  both  of  these  in  one."  ^  When  the  poet-laureate's 
"Grandmother"  appeared  in  Once  a  Week,  "  I  wish 
I  could   have   got  that  poem   for  my   Cornhillj"  said 


^  Letters  of  Edward  FitzGerald,  Vol.  Ill,  p.  203. 

'^  Ibid.,  Vol.  Ill,  p.  17. 

'  Life  and  Works  of  Alfred  Lord  Tennyson,  Vol.  II,  p.  287. 

^  Ibid.,  Vol.  II,  P284. 


i83o]  ALFRED  TENNYSON  67 

the  editor  of  the  magazine  to  Locker-Lampson.  "  I 
would  have  paid  fifty  pounds  for  it,  but  I  would 
have  given  five  hundred  pounds  to  be  able  to  write 
it."^  And  numerous  were  the  affectionate  notes  ex- 
changed. *'  You  don't  know  how  pleased  the  girls 
were  at  Kensington  t'other  day  to  hear  you  quote  their 
father's  little  verses,"  Thackeray  wrote  in  1859;  "and 
he  too  I  daresay  was  not  disgusted."  ^ 

^  F.  Locker  Lampson  :  My  Confidences,  p.  298. 

^  Life  and  Works  of  Alfred  Lord  Tennyson,  Vol.  II,  p.  286. 


CHAPTER   V 

AM  RHEIN  (1830-1831) 

Thackeray  goes  abroad  —  Paris  —  Coblenz  —  Godesberg  —  Cologne  — 
Weimar — Weimar  in  "Vanity  Fair" — his  flirtations — Dorothea  and 
her  prototype — his  opinions  of  the  German  writers — Mme.  Goethe — 
"Grand  old  Goethe." 

IN  the  earlier  decades  of  the  nineteenth  century  it 
was  still  customary  for  a  young  man  of  means 
and  fashion,  after  he  came  down  from  the 
University,  to  make  a  more  or  less  extended  tour 
through  Europe,  usually  with  a  "bear-leader"  dis- 
guised as  a  tutor,  but  sometimes  alone,  when  the 
Young  Hopeful  had  inspired  confidence  in  his  steadi- 
ness in  the  bosoms  of  those  members  of  his  family  who 
were  responsible  for,  or  who  charged  themselves  with, 
his  welfare.  This  latter  privilege,  so  much  desired  by 
a  lad  about  to  enter  the  broad  arena  of  the  world, 
was  secured  by  Thackeray,  about  to  go  abroad  when, 
at  the  age  of  nineteen  (1830),  he  left  Cambridge.  This 
presupposes  he  had  then  secured  a  reputation  for 
common  sense,  which  he  was  presently,  to  some 
extent,  to  belie  by  allowing  himself  to  be  victimised  in 
a  commercial  transaction  and  to  be  swindled  at  the 
card-table  :  he  was,  however,  on  the  whole  sensible 
enough  for  one  of  his  years.  "  Be  sure,"  he  said  years 
afterwards,  "if  thou  hast  never  been  a  fool,  thou  wilt 

68 


1 830]  ABROAD  69 

never  be  a  wise  man."  The  picture  of  him  at  this  time 
is  that  of  a  lad  of  no  great  intellectual  ability,  but  with 
the  agreeable  qualities  of  humour,  amiability,  and 
kindness,  a  love  of  books  and  of  the  lighter  branches 
of  pictorial  art,  and  a  considerable  talent  for  satirical 
sketches  both  with  pen  and  pencil  that  indicate  to  us, 
who  can  trace  from  them  the  development  of  his 
genius,  a  power  of  observation  unusually  acute  for  so 
young  a  man.  In  appearance  he  was,  at  this  time, 
according  to  Dr.  Thompson,  a  tall,  thin,  large-eyed, 
full  and  ruddy-faced  man,  with  an  eyeglass  fixed  en 
permanence. 

Thackeray  prepared  himself  for  his  travels  by  taking 
in  London  a  course  of  German  lessons  with  a  Herr 
Troppenheger — who,  doubtless,  would  be  mightily 
surprised  to  find  his  name  remembered  after  the  lapse 
of  the  greater  part  of  a  century — and  in  July  1830  he 
set  out  for  the  Continent.  Paying  a  visit  to  Paris  en 
route,  he  arrived  at  the  end  of  the  month  at  Coblenz, 
and  then,  going  north,  he  came  to  Godesberg,  a  town 
that  occupied  an  important  place  in  his  '*  Legend  of  the 
Rhine."  There  he  stayed  a  month,  noting  the  habits 
and  customs  of  the  inhabitants  and  endeavouring  to 
supplement  his  slight  knowledge  of  the  German 
language,  so  that,  as  Mark  Twain  has  happily  put 
it,  he  should  not  make  twins  out  of  a  dative  dog. 
Eventually  he  went  on  a  Rhine  steamer  to  Cologne, 
as  afterwards  did  Mr.  Titmarsh  in  company  with  the 
Kickleburys,  whose  travels  he  recorded  and  illustrated. 
Thackeray  refused  to  describe  the  river,  which,  he 
declared,  was  as  familiar  to  English  people  as  the 
Thames,  and  subsequently  Titmarsh  made  a  similar 


70     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1830- 

resolve,  to  which  he  adhered  until  he  saw  a  sunrise  at 
Cologne,  when  he  gave  voice  to  an  exquisite  prose 
poem. 

Deutz  lay  opposite  [he  wrote  in  a  white  heat  of 
enthusiasm],  and  over  Deutz  the  dusky  sky  was  red- 
dened. The  hills  were  veiled  in  the  mist  and  the 
grey.  The  grey  river  flowed  underneath  us ;  the 
steamers  were  roosting  along  the  quays,  a  light 
keeping  watch  in  the  cabins  here  and  there,  and  its 
reflections  quivering  in  the  water.  As  I  look,  the 
sky-line  towards  the  east  grows  redder  and  redder. 
A  long  troop  of  grey  horsemen  winds  down  the 
river  road,  and  passes  over  the  bridge  of  boats.  You 
might  take  them  for  ghosts,  those  grey  horsemen,  so 
shadowy  do  they  look ;  but  you  hear  the  trample  of 
their  hoofs  as  they  pass  over  the  planks.  Every 
minute  the  dawn  twinkles  up  into  the  twilight ;  and 
over  Deutz  the  heaven  blushes  brighter.  The  quays 
begin  to  fill  with  men  :  the  carts  begin  to  creak  and 
rattle,  and  wake  the  sleeping  echoes.  Ding,  ding, 
ding,  the  steamers'  bells  begin  to  ring :  the  people 
on  board  to  stir  and  wake  :  the  lights  may  be  extin- 
guished, and  take  their  turn  of  sleep :  the  active 
boats  shake  themselves,  and  push  out  into  the  river : 
the  great  bridge  opens,  and  gives  them  passage :  the 
church  bells  of  the  city  begin  to  clink  :  the  cavalry 
trumpets  blow  from  the  opposite  bank  :  the  sailor  is 
at  the  wheel,  the  porter  at  his  burthen,  the  soldier  at 
his  musket,  and  the  priest  at  his  prayers.  .  .  .  And 
lo  !  in  a  flash  of  crimson  splendour,  with  blazing 
scarlet  clouds  running  before  his  chariot,  and  herald- 
ing his  majestic  approach,  God's  sun  rises  upon  the 
world,  and  all  nature  wakens  and  brightens.^ 

Leisurely,  by  way  of  Elberfeld,  Cassel,  and  the  quaint 
old  town  of  Gotha,  Thackeray  proceeded  on  his  travels, 
and  at  last  on  September  29  arrived  at  Weimar.     He 

^  The  Kicklehurys  on  the  Rhine. 


i83i]  PUMPERNICKEL-WEIMAR  71 

came  for  a  few  days,  but  stayed  months  in  the  ''little, 
comfortable,  Grand-Ducal  town  of  Pumpernickel,"  as 
in  "Vanity  Fair"  he  styled  it — that  little  town  where 
Sir  Pitt  Crawley  was  for  years  an  attache  and  where 
that  ''infernal  slyboots  of  a  Tapeworm,"  the  Secretary 
of  the  English  Legation,  showed  himself  susceptible 
to  the  charms  of  Amelia  Osborne. 

Pumpernickel  [he  wrote  with  satire  tempered  by 
the  memory  of  happy  days  spent  there]  stands  in  the 
midst  of  a  happy  valley,  through  which  sparkles — 
to  mingle  with  the  Rhine  somewhere,  but  I  have 
not  the  map  at  hand  to  say  exactly  at  what  point — 
the  fertilising  stream  of  the  Pump.  In  some  places 
the  river  is  big  enough  to  support  a  ferry-boat,  in 
others  to  turn  a  mill ;  in  Pumpernickel  itself,  the 
last  Transparency  but  three,  the  great  and  renowned 
Victor  Aurelius  XIV.  built  a  magnificent  bridge, 
on  which  his  own  statue  rises,  surrounded  by  water- 
nymphs  and  emblems  of  victory,  peace,  and  plenty ; 
he  has  his  foot  on  the  neck  of  a  prostrate  Turk — 
history  says  he  engaged  and  ran  a  Janissary  through 
the  body  at  the  relief  of  Vienna  by  Sobieski, — but 
quite  undisturbed  by  the  agonies  of  the  prostrate 
Mahometan,  who  writhes  at  his  feet  in  the  most 
ghastly  manner — the  Prince  smiles  blandly,  and 
points  with  his  truncheon  in  the  direction  of  the 
Aurelius  Platz,  where  he  began  to  erect  a  new 
palace  that  would  have  been  the  wonder  of  the  age, 
had  the  great-souled  Prince  but  funds  to  complete 
it.  But  the  completion  of  Monplaisir  {Monblaisir, 
the  honest  German  folks  call  it)  was  stopped  for  lack 
of  ready  money,  and  it  and  its  park  and  garden  are 
now  in  rather  a  faded  condition,  and  not  more  than 
ten  times  big  enough  to  accommodate  the  Court  of 
the  reigning  Sovereign.^ 

Thackeray  arrived  at  Pumpernickel-Weimar  at  the 

^  Vanity  Fair^  chap.  Ixiii. 


^2     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1830- 

beginning  of  September,  and  found  already  settled 
there  Norman  MacLeod,  the  son  of  the  Moderator  of 
the  General  Assembly  and  himself  afterwards  a  cele- 
brated Scotch  divine,  and  his  old  Trinity  friend, 
Lettsom,  who  was  attached  to  the  suite  of  the  English 
Minister ;  and  with  these  two  young  men  learnt 
German  from  Dr.  Weissenborn, — ''thou  wert  my  in- 
structor, good  old  Weissenborn."^  It  was  a  quiet, 
homely  little  place  in  the  early  thirties,  the  capital 
of  the  Grand-Duchy  of  Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach,  and 
Thackeray  was  so  happy  that  he  wrote  home  in 
December  to  say  he  would  much  appreciate  an 
appointment  as  attache  that  would  enable  him  to  stay 
there.  "  I  have  never  seen  a  society  more  simple, 
charitable,  courteous,  gentlemanlike,  than  that  of  the 
dear  little  Saxon  city  where  the  good  Schiller  and  the 
great  Goethe  lived  and  lie  buried,"  Thackeray  de- 
clared in  after-life,  when  he  had  pictured  it  in  those 
chapters  of  "Vanity  Fair"  where  "  der  Herr  Graf 
von  Sedley  nebst  Begleitung"  goes  Am  Rhein. 

Everybody  in  Pumpernickel  knew  everybody.  No 
sooner  was  a  foreigner  seen  there,  than  the  Minister 
for  Foreign  Affairs,  or  some  other  great  or  small 
officer  of  state,  went  round  to  the  Erbprinz  (Hotel), 
and  found  out  the  name  of  the  new  arrivals.  .  .  . 
It  was  very  agreeable  for  the  English.  There  were 
shooting-parties  and  battues  ;  there  was  a  plenty  of 
balls  and  entertainments  at  the  hospitable  Court ; 
the  society  was  generally  good  ;  the  theatre  excellent, 
and  the  living  cheap.  "^ 

Thackeray    declared    that    Weimar    was    the    most 
hospitable  place  in  the  world  so  far  as  tea-parties  were 

^  De  Finibus.  ^  Vanity  Fair,  chap.  Ixii. 


iS3i]  AMUSEMENTS  73 

concerned,  though  he  lamented  that  he  was  never  in 
one  where  invitations  to  dinner  were  so  scarce  ;  but 
this  was  the  only  fault  he  could  find  with  the  place, 
and  if  the  entertainment  was  frugal,  the  welcome  at 
least  was  hearty.  He  went  to  Court,  where  in  his 
turn  he  was  commanded  to  balls  and  assemblies,  and 
— there  at  least — to  dinners.  Most  of  the  Germans 
had  a  uniform,  and,  as  is  their  custom,  always 
appeared  in  it,  and  those  English  who  had  one,  dip- 
lomatic or  military,  wore  it  when  paying  their  re- 
spects to  the  Grand-Duke  and  Duchess ;  while  those 
who  had  not  invented  one — the  Hof-Marschall  of  that 
day,  M.  de  Spiegel,  the  father  of  two  beautiful  girls, 
though  a  martinet  so  far  as  the  dress  of  his  country- 
men was  concerned,  good-naturedly  overlooking  the 
contrivances  of  the  young  strangers.  Thackeray  sub- 
sequently told  George  Henry  Lewes  that  he  re- 
membered inventing  "gorgeous  clothing"  for  these 
gatherings ;  but  he  wrote  home  at  the  time  to  com- 
plain that  he  was  somewhat  troubled  by  his  makeshift 
dress  of  black  coat,  waistcoat,  and  trousers  cut  down 
to  breeches,  in  which  he  declared  he  looked  half  a 
footman,  half  a  Methodist  parson  ;  and  he  begged  his 
stepfather  to  secure  for  him  a  cornetcy  in  Sir  John 
Kennaway's  Yeomanry,  so  that  he  might  attire  himself 
suitably.  The  only  other  grievance  he  had  in  these 
happy  days  was  that  all  the  young  ladies  at  Weimar 
spoke  English  so  well  that  he  had  no  opportunity  to 
speak  German. 

Thackeray  visited  the  theatre  which  was  open  two  or 
three  nights  a  week,  and  where  the  entire  society  of 
Weimar  assembled,  * '  a  large  family  party. "    Besides  the 


74     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1830- 

regular  company,  famous  artists  came  from  other  parts 
of  Germany,  and  he  saw  Ludwig  Devrient,  "the  Kean 
of  Germany  "  he  called  him,  as  Shylock,  Hamlet,  Fal- 
staff,  and  the  hero  in  "  Die  Rauber,"  and  the  beautiful 
Schroder  in  "Fidelio."  He  drew  on  his  memory  of 
this  time  when  he  sent  Jos  and  Emmy  and  Dobbin  to  a 
Gast-rolle  night  at  the  Royal  Grand-Ducal  Pumper- 
nickelisch  Hof-Theater,  when  they  saw  ''Die  Schlacht 
bei  Vittoria,"  in  which  the  melody  of  "God  save  the 
King  "  is  performed. 

There  may  have  been  a  score  of  Englishmen  in 
the  house,  but  at  the  burst  of  the  beloved  and  well- 
known  music,  every  one  of  them  .  .  .  stood  bolt 
upright  in  their  places,  and  proclaimed  themselves 
to  be  members  of  the  dear  old  British  nation. ^ 

Thackeray  had  at  this  time  some  love-affairs,  but, 
though  they  lingered  in  his  memory,  to  judge  from  the 
tone  in  which  he  wrote  about  them,  they  were  not  very 
serious. 

Now  I  see  one  of  the  young  men  alone  [he  remem- 
bered thirty  years  later].  He  is  walking  in  a  street — 
a  dark  street — presently  a  light  comes  to  a  window. 
There  is  the  shadow  of  a  lady  who  passes.  He 
stands  there  till  the  light  goes  out.  Now  he  is  in  a 
room  scribbling  on  a  piece  of  paper,  and  kissing  a 
miniature  every  now  and  then.  They  seem  to  be 
lines  each  pretty  much  of  a  length.  I  can  read  hearty 
smart,  dart;  Mary,  fairy ;  Cupid,  stupid;  true,  you; 
and  never  mind  what  more.     Bah  !  it  is  bosh.2 

He  thoroughly  enjoyed  his  flirtations,  humorously 
bemoaning  his  fate  when  a  girl  was  allured  from  him 
by  the  fascinations  of  a  young  Guardsman  with  mag- 

^  Vanity  Fair,  chap.  Ixii.  ^  De  Juventute. 


i83i]  "DOROTHEA"  75 

nificent  waistcoats  and  ten  thousand  a  year,  by  trans- 
lating, for  the  benefit  of  his  mother,  poor  Thekla's 
song  in  "  Wallenstein," 

This  world  is  empty, 

This  heart  is  dead, 
Its  hopes  and  its  ashes 

For  ever  are  fled.^ 

Some  ten  years  after  Thackeray  was  at  Weimar  Mr. 
George  Savage  Fitz-Boodle,  who  had  followed  in  his 
creator's  footsteps,  narrated  his  amorous  ''Confes- 
sions," and  it  is  impossible  to  put  aside  the  suspicion 
that  these  were  based  upon  the  author's  experiences. 
Whether  Thackeray,  like  Fitz-Boodle,  met  at  Bonn 
some  "pretty  Mina,  daughter  of  Moses  Lowe,  banker," 
who,  after  this  lapse  of  time,  shall  say?  and  of  greedy 
Ottilia  no  trace  is  to  be  found  in  the  records  of 
Thackeray's  travels.  At  Weimar,  however,  he  met 
the  original  of  Dorothea,  daughter  of  Herr  Ober-Hof- 
und-Bau-Inspektor  von  Speck,  and  for  her  sweet  sake 
learned  to  dance.  He  made  his  first  appearance  as  a 
dancer  at  a  Court  Ball,  secured  Dorothea  as  partner, 
and  danced  with  her  on  a  highly  waxed  floor,  danced 
—and  fell  ! 

O  Dorothea !  you  can't  forgive  me,  you  oughtn't 
to  forgive  me  ;  but  I  love  you  madly  still.  My  next 
flame  was  Ottilia.^ 

After  twenty-three  years,  Thackeray  revisited  ' '  the 
cheery  social  little  German  place,"  and  pointed  out  to 
his  daughters  the  house  where  his  heroine  had  lived. 

^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  82. 
^  Confessions  of  Fitz-Boodle — Dorothea. 


76     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1830- 

Dorothea  had  gone  from  Weimar,  but  her  erstwhile 
lover  was  to  see  her  soon  after  at  Venice,  at  breakfast 
in  a  hotel,  a  fat  woman  whom  he  did   not  recognise 

until  she  was  pointed  out  to  him  as  Madame  von  Z . 

"My  poor  father  turned  away,  saying  in  a  low,  over- 
whelmed voice,  '  That  Amalia  !  That  cannot  be 
Amalia  ! '  "  his  eldest  daughter  has  recorded.  '*  I 
could  not  understand  his  silence,  his  discomposure. 
'  Aren't  you  going  to  speak  to  her?  Oh,  please  do  go 
and  speak  to  her,'  we  both  cried.  '  Do  make  sure  if  it 
is  Amalia.'  But  he  shook  his  head.  '  I  can't,'  he 
said;  'I  had  rather  not.'  Amalia,  meanwhile,  having 
finished  her  ^^^^  rose  deliberately,  laid  down  her 
napkin,  and  walked  away,  followed  by  her  little  boy."^ 
In  a  town  that  owed  its  world-wide  fame  to  the 
welcome  it  had  extended  to  Goethe,  Schiller,  Herder, 
and  Wieland,  it  was  natural  that  the  talk  in  the  salons 
should  be  of  letters  and  art.  Thackeray,  to  whom 
such  conversation  was  congenial,  and  who  indeed 
did  not  require  any  spur  to  take  him  to  the  company 
of  books,  read  diligently  the  standard  German  authors. 
Herwegh,  now  no  more  than  a  name  even  to  most  of 
his  countrymen,  the  young  Englishman  studied,  and 
later  wrote  of  in  characteristic  Titmarshian  manner  : 

It  is  absurd  to  place  this  young  man  forward  as  a 
master.  His  poetry  is  a  convulsion,  not  an  effort  of 
strength  ;  he  does  not  sing,  but  he  roars  ;  his  dis- 
like amounts  to  fury  ;  and  we  must  confess  that  it 
seems  to  us,  in  many  instances,  that  his  hatred  and 
heroism  are  quite  factitious,  and  that  his  enthusiasm 
has  a  very  calculating  look  with  it.  Fury,  to  be 
effective  either  in  life  or  in  print,  should  surely  only 

^  Lady  Ritchie  :  Chapters  from  some  Memoirs,  pp.  1 17-18. 


i83i]  GERMAN   AUTHORS  ^^ 

be  occasional.  People  become  quite  indifferent  to 
wrath  which  is  roaring  and  exploding  all  day  :  as 
gunners  go  to  sleep  upon  batteries.  Think  of  the 
prodigious  number  of  appeals  to  arms  that  our 
young  poet  has  made  in  the  course  of  these  pages  ; 
what  a  waving  and  clatter  of  flashing  thoughts ; 
what  a  loading  and  firing  of  double-barrelled  words  ; 
and,  when  the  smoke  rolls  off,  nobody  killed  I  ^ 

Uhland,  Korner,  Von  Chamisso,  and  others  he  read, 
and  afterwards  translated  ;  and,  of  course,  Goethe  and 
Schiller.  ''Faust"  did  not  arouse  in  him  great  en- 
thusiasm. ''Of  course  I  am  delighted,  but  not  to 
that  degree  I  expected  "  ;  but  for  Schiller's  plays  and 
poems  he  had  unbounded  admiration. 

I  have  been  reading  Shakespeare  in  German  [he 
wrote  to  his  mother].  If  I  could  ever  do  the  same 
for  Schiller  in  English,  I  should  be  proud  of  having 
conferred  a  benefit  on  my  country.  ...  I  do  believe 
him  to  be,  after  Shakespeare,  "the  poet."^ 

The  greatest  figure  in  Weimar  in  Thackeray's  day 
was  Goethe,  who  had  now  retired  from  the  direction  of 
the  theatre,  and,  indeed,  also  from  general  society, 
though  his  daughter-in-law,  Madame  de  Goethe,  who 
kept  house  for  him,  occasionally  gave  a  tea-party  to 
some  of  his  favourites.  Thackeray  and  his  English 
friends  were  frequent  visitors,  and  went  there  night 

^  George  Herwegh's  Poems  {Foreign  Quarterly  Review,  April  1843). 
The  translations  from  Herwegh  were  printed  by  the  present  writer 
in  an  article  on  "Thackeray's  Ballads"  in  the  Fortnightly  Review 
(November  1907)  and  LittelTs  Living  Age  (December  1907).  The  article 
was  first  reprinted  by  Mr.  R.  S.  Garnett  in  "The  New  Sketch  Book," 
and  it  has  since  been  included  by  Professor  Saintsbury  in  the  Oxford 
edition  of  Thackeray's  Works. 

"^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  81. 


78      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1830- 

after  night  to  talk,  or  listen  to  music,  bringing  with 
them  books  or  magazines  from  England  for  Goethe 
to  glance  at.  The  Maclise  caricatures  in  the  early- 
numbers  of  Fraser^s  Magazine  interested  the  old  man, 
until  there  appeared  the  terrible  sketch  of  cadaverous 
Sam  Rogers,  of  which  Maginn  wrote  :  ^^De  mortuis 
nil  nisi  honum!  There  is  Sam  Rogers,  a  mortal  like- 
ness, painted  to  the  very  death!"  "They  would 
make  me  look  like  that,"  Goethe  exclaimed  angrily. 
Thackeray,  who  could  fancy  "  nothing  more  serene, 
majestic,  and  healthy -looking  than  the  grand  old 
Goethe,"  remembered  this  remark,  and  on  his  return 
gave  Maclise  a  sketch  of  the  old  man,  which  the  artist 
copied  and  inserted  in  the  issue  of  the  magazine  for 
March  1832.^  In  those  days  already  it  was  Thackeray's 
great  pleasure  to  draw  caricatures  for  children,  and 
when  he  revisited  Weimar  more  than  a  score  of  years 
after,  he  was  touched  to  find  that  several  of  his  sketches 
had  been  preserved. 

Thackeray  naturally  regarded  as  the  most  memor- 
able day  of  his  stay  at  Weimar  his  first  meeting  with 
''grand  old  Goethe,"  who  received  him  kindly,  and,  it 
pleased  the  young  man  to  think,  **in  rather  a  more 
distingue  manner  than  he  has  used  the  other  English- 
men here."  He  never  forgot  the  day  (October  20) 
when  he  met  this  redoubtable  personage — it  was  like 
a   visit  to  a  dentist,   he  told  Monckton  Milnes  ;  and 


'  The  copy  in  Fraser's  Magazine  proved  a  total  failure  and  involun- 
tary caricature,  resembling-,  as  was  said  at  the  time,  a  wretched  old- 
clothes-man  carrying'  behind  his  back  a  hat  which  he  seemed  to  have 
stolen." — Carlyle  :  Miscellanies,  Vol.  Ill,  p.  93, 

The  orig-inal  by  Maclise  is  in  the  South  Kensington  Museum. 


I83I]  INTERVIEW  WITH   GOETHE  79 

after  a  quarter  of  a  century  he  could  recall  every  detail 
of  the  brief  interview. 

Of  course  I  remember  very  well  the  perturbation 
of  spirit  with  which,  as  a  lad  of  nineteen,  I  received 
the  long-expected  intimation  that  the  Herr  Geheim- 
rath  would  see  me  on  such  a  morning.  This  notable 
audience  took  place  in  a  little  ante-chamber  of  his 
private  apartments,  covered  all  round  with  antique 
casts  and  bas-reliefs.  He  was  habited  in  a  long 
gray  or  drab  redingote,  with  a  white  neckcloth  and 
a  red  ribbon  in  his  button-hole.  He  kept  his  hands 
behind  his  back,  just  as  in  Ranch's  statuette.  His 
complexion  was  very  bright,  clear,  and  rosy.  His 
eyes  extraordinarily  dark,  piercing  and  brilliant.^  I 
felt  quite  afraid  before  them,  and  recollect  comparing 
them  to  the  eyes  of  the  hero  of  a  certain  romance 
called  ' '  Melmoth  the  Wanderer, "  which  used  to  alarm 
us  boys  thirty  years  ago  ;  eyes  of  an  individual  who 
had  made  a  bargain  with  a  Certain  Person,  and  at 
an  extreme  old  age  retain  these  eyes  in  all  their 
awful  splendour.  I  fancy  Goethe  must  have  been 
still  more  handsome  as  an  old  man  than  even  in 
the  days  of  his  youth.  His  voice  was  very  rich 
and  sweet.  He  asked  me  questions  about  myself, 
which  I  answered  as  best  I  could.  I  recollect  I 
was  at  first  astonished,  and  then  somewhat  relieved, 
when  I  found  he  spoke  French  with  not  a  good 
accent. 

Vidi  tantum.  I  saw  him  but  three  times.  Once 
walking  in  the  garden  of  his  house  in  the  Frauen- 
platz  ;  once  going  to  step  into  his  chariot  on  a  sun- 
shiny day,  wearing  a  cap  and  a  cloak  with  a  red 
collar.  He  was  caressing  at  the  time  a  beautiful 
little  golden-haired  granddaughter,  over  whose  sweet 
face  the  earth  has  long  since  closed  too.' 

^  "This  must  have  been  the  effect  of  the  position  in  which  he  sat 
with  regard  to  the  light.  Goethe's  eyes  were  dark  brown,  but  not  very 
dark." — G.  H.  Lewes. 

'  Letter  to  G.  H.  Lewes,  April  28,  1855,  quoted  in  the  Life  of  Goethe. 


8o     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1831 

An  artist  might  well  take  for  the  subject  of  a  picture 
this  meeting  of  the  two  men,  the  one  on  the  brink  of 
the  grave,  renowned  as  poet  and  dramatist  beyond  all 
living  men,  the  other  on  the  threshold  of  life,  not  even 
dreaming  of  the  greatness  he  was  to  attain.  The 
author  of  ''  Faust"  doubtless  did  not  discern  any  germ 
of  the  still  unveiled  talent  of  his  young  visitor,  who  all 
his  life  was  to  treasure  the  memory  of  this  interview. 
''  My  only  recommendation,"  Thackeray  once  humor- 
ously remarked,  "is  that  I  have  seen  Napoleon  and 
Goethe,  and  am  the  owner  of  Schiller's  sword." 


1 


CHAPTER  VI 

THE   TEMPLE   (1831-1832) 

Thackeray  a  student  of  Middle  Temple — chambers  at  No.  2,  Brick 
Court — writes  of  the  literary  associations  of  the  Temple — the  Temple 
in  his  writings — loses  money  at  cards — the  original  of  Deuceace — 
chambers  at  No.  lo,  Crown  Office  Row — work  and  play — dislike  of 
the  law — goes  to  Cornwall  to  canvass  for  Charles  Buller — comes  of 
age — abandons  the  Law — goes  to  Paris — loses  his  patrimony. 

ON  his  return  in  the  autumn  of  1831  from  his 
Wanderj'ahr,  Thackeray  entered  himself  as 
a  student  of  Middle  Temple,  and  though 
he  did  not  look  forward  with  pleasure  to 
practising  at  the  Bar,  yet,  as  he  wrote  to  his  mother, 
he  regarded  the  profession  as  "a  noble  and  tangible 
object,  an  honourable  calling,  and,  I  trust  in  God,  a 
certain  fame."  He  read  with  the  special  pleader  and 
conveyancer,  Taprell,  at  No.  i,  Hare  Court;  and  he 
lived  at  No.  2,  Brick  Court,  and  was  pleased  to  recall 
the  fact  that  his  chambers  had  once  been  occupied  by 
Oliver  Goldsmith. 

I  have  been  many  a  time  in  the  chambers  in  the 
Temple  which  were  his,  and  passed  up  the  staircase, 
which  Johnson,  and  Burke,  and  Reynolds  trod  to  see 
their  friend,  their  poet,  their  kind  Goldsmith — the 
stair  on  which  the  poor  women  sat,  weeping  bitterly 
when  they  heard  that  the  greatest  and  most  generous 
of  men  was  dead  within  the  black  oak  door.^ 

^  The  English  Humourists — Sterne  and  Goldstnifh. 
I.— G  81 


82      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1831- 

Indeed,  the  literary  associations  of  the  Temple  were 
an  abiding  interest  to  the  great  humorist  of  the  nine- 
teenth century,  and  he  was  never  weary  of  conjuring 
up  the  ghosts  of  his  predecessors. 

The  man  of  letters  can  but  love  the  place  which 
has  been  inhabited  by  so  many  of  his  brethren,  or 
peopled  by  their  creations  as  real  to  us  at  this  day  as 
the  authors  whose  children  they  were — and  Sir  Roger 
de  Coverley  walking  in  the  Temple  Garden,  and  dis- 
coursing with  Mr.  Spectator  about  the  beauties  in 
hoops  and  patches  who  are  sauntering  over  the  grass, 
is  just  as  lively  a  figure  to  me  as  is  old  Samuel 
Johnson,  rolling  through  the  fog  with  the  Scotch 
gentleman  at  his  heels  on  their  way  to  Dr.  Gold- 
smith's chambers  in  Brick  Court;  or  Harry  Fielding, 
with  inked  ruffles  and  a  wet  towel  round  his  head, 
dashing  off  articles  at  midnight  for  the  Covent  Garden 
Journal^  while  the  printer's  boy  is  asleep  in  the 
passage.^ 

Subsequently  Thackeray  shared  chambers  at  No.  10, 
Crown  Office  Row,  with  Tom  Taylor,  a  fact  duly  com- 
memorated by  Taylor  at  the  time  the  building  in 
which  they  were  situated  was  pulled  down. 

"They  were  fusty,  they  were  musty,  they  were  grimy,  dull, 

and  dim. 
The   paint   scaled   off  the  panelling,   the  stairs  were  all 

untrim  ; 
The  flooring  creaked,  the  windows  gaped,  the  door-posts 

stood  awry. 
The  wind  whipt  round  the  corner  with  a  wild  and  wailing 

cry. 
In  a  dingier  set  of  chambers,  no  man  need  wish  to  stow. 
Than  those,  old  friend,  wherein  we  denned,  in  Ten,  Crown 

Office  Row. 

^  Pendennis,  chap,  xxx,  first  edition. 


i832]  "TEN,   CROWN   OFFICE   ROW"  83 

**  But  loe  were  young',  if  they  were  old,  we  never  cared  a  pin, 

So  the  windows  kept  the  rain  out,  and  let  the  sunshine  in; 

Our  stout  hearts  mocked  the  crazy  roofs,  our  hopes  be- 
decked the  wall, 

We  were  happy,  we  were  hearty,  strong  to  meet  what 
might  befall ; 

Will  sunnier  hours  be  ever  ours,  than  those  which  used  to 

Gay  to  the  end,  my  dear  old  friend,  in  Ten,  Crown  Office 
Row. 


"Good-bye,  old  rooms,  where  we  chummed  years,  without 

a  single  fight. 
Far  statelier  sets  of  chambers  will  arise  upon  your  site  ; 
More  airy  bedrooms,  wider  panes,  our  followers  will  see  ; 
And  wealthier,  wiser  tenants,  the  Bench   may  find   than 

we  ; — 
But  lighter  hearts  or  truer,  I'll  defy  the  Inn  to  show, 
Than  yours,   old  friend,   and    his   who  penned  this  Ten, 

Crown  Office  Row."i 

As  Thackeray,  when  he  turned  his  hand  to  fiction, 
sent  his  characters  to  school  at  the  Charterhouse,  so 
he  utilised  his  knowledge  of  the  Inns  of  Court  to 
people  them  with  fictitious  personages.  In  Lamb 
Court  were  the  chambers  of  Pendennis  and  Warring- 
ton ;  and,  near  by,  Mrs.  Bolton  and  her  daughter, 
pretty  little  Fanny,  kept  the  gate  of  Shepherd's  Inn, 
where  Captain  Costigan  and  Mr.  Bows,  when  they 
followed  "the  Fotheringay"  to  London,  pitched  their 
tent  next  door  to  the  chambers  of  Colonel  Altamont 
and  Captain  the  Chevalier  Edward  Strong.     In  Pump 

^  "  Ten,  Cro7vn  Office  Row."  A  Templar's  Tribute  {Punch,  February 
26,  1859). 


84      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1831- 

Court  resided  the  Hon.  Algernon  Percy  Deuceace, 
who  with  his  scoundrelly  neighbour,  Richard  Blewitt, 
plucked  that  most  unsuspicious  simpleton,  Dawkins, 
who  lived  on  the  same  stair.  The  story  of  these 
Captains  Rook  and  Mr.  Pigeon  was  based  upon  an 
incident  in  Thackeray's  life,  for  in  the  Temple  social 
robbers  eased  him  of  a  good  round  sum. 

When  I  first  came  to  London,  as  innocent  as 
Monsieur  Gil  Bias,  I  also  fell  in  with  some  pretty 
acquaintances,  found  my  way  into  several  taverns, 
and  delivered  my  purse  to  more  than  one  gallant 
gentleman  of  the  road.  Ogres,  nowadays,  need  not 
be  giants  at  all.  .  .  .  They  go  about  in  society,  slim, 
small,  quietly  dressed,  and  showing  no  especially 
great  appetite.  In  my  own  young  days  there  used 
to  be  play  ogres — men  who  would  devour  a  young 
fellow  in  one  sitting,  and  leave  him  without  a  bit  of 
flesh  on  his  bones.  They  were  quiet,  gentlemen- 
like-looking  people.  They  got  the  young  man  into 
their  cave.  Champagne,  pate  de  foie  gras,  and 
numberless  good  things  were  handed  about ;  and 
then,  having  eaten,  the  young  man  was  devoured  in 
his  turn.^ 

At  a  sitting  Thackeray  lost  fifteen  hundred  pounds, 
probably  in  the  manner  described  in  the  "  Yellowplush 
Papers."  Many  years  later  he  pointed  out  to  Sir 
Theodore  Martin  a  broken-down  but  gentlemanly  look- 
ing man  as  the  original  of  Deuceace.  ''I  have  not 
seen  him  since  the  day  he  drove  me  down  in  his  cab- 
riolet to  my  brokers  in  the  city  where  I  sold  out  my 
patrimony  and  handed  it  over  to  him."  *'  Poor  devil !  " 
he  added,  with  pity  in  his  voice,  **  Poor  devil !  my 
money  doesn't  seem  to  have  thriven  with  him."^ 

^  Ogres.  *  Merivale  and  Marzials :  Thackeray,  p.  236. 


1832]       PENDENNIS   AND   WARRINGTON  85 

I  go  pretty  regularly  to  my  pleader's  and  sit  with 
him  until  half-past  five,  and  sometimes  six  ;  then 
I  come  home  and  read  and  dine  till  about  nine  or 
past,  when  I  am  glad  enough  to  go  out  for  an  hour 
and  look  at  the  world. 1 

So  he  wrote  to  his  stepfather  in  December  1831  ; 
but  most  of  his  letters  refer  to  his  pleasures  rather 
than  to  his  studies,  and  his  diary  is  full  of  entries  of 
visits  to  the  theatre!  of  happy  days  spent  with  ''Old 
Fitz,"  at  this  time  in  lodgings  in  Charlotte  Street, 
with  Tennyson,  or  with  Charles  Duller,  discussing 
the  poets,  upon  whose  merits  they  could  not  agree  ;  of 
pleasant  strolls  in  Kensington  Gardens  ;  of  luncheons 
with  friends,  and  dinners  with  an  uncle,  the  Rev. 
Francis  Thackeray,  to  whom  subsequently  he  made 
appreciative  reference, 

O  saintly  Francis,  lying  at  rest  under  the  turf.^ 

The  young  man  was  attached  to  his  relative,  and  his 
only  grievance  against  him  was  that  this  hospitable 
gentleman  would  ask  him  to  dinner  too  often — three 
times  a  week — when  his  nephew  would  rather  have 
spent  an  evening  in  more  youthful  society. 

The  picture  of  those  idle  apprentices,  Pendennis  and 
"Bluebeard"  Warrington,  was  probably  drawn  from 
the  creator's  life  at  this  time,  for  doubtless,  like  them, 
Thackeray  and  Taylor, 

After  reading  pretty  hard  of  a  morning,  and,  I 
fear,  not  law  merely,  but  politics  and  general  history 
and  literature,  which  were  as  necessary  for  the  ad- 
vancement and  instruction  of  a  young  man  as  mere 

^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  87. 

2  The  Book  of  Snobs,  chap,  xi  :  On  Clerical  Snobs. 


86     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1831- 

dry  law,  after  applying  with  tolerable  assiduity  to 
letters,  to  reviews,  to  elemental  books  of  law,  and, 
above  all,  to  the  newspaper,  until  the  hour  of  dinner 
was  drawing  nigh  .  .  .  would  sally  out  upon  the 
town  with  great  spirits  and  appetite,  and  bent  upon 
enjoying  a  merry  night  as  they  had  passed  a  pleasant 
forenoon.^ 

Certainly  Thackeray  did  not  work  hard,  and  his  dis- 
taste for  the  legal  profession  increased.  "The  sun 
won't  shine  into  Taprell's  chambers,  and  the  high 
stools  don't  blossom  and  bring  forth  buds,"  he  lamented 
in  the  spring  ;  and  in  more  serious  mood  he  stated  his 
real  objection  to  the  study  of  the  law. 

This  lawyer's  preparatory  education  is  certainly 
one  of  the  most  cold-blooded,  prejudiced  pieces  of 
invention  that  ever  a  man  was  slave  to.  ...  A 
fellow  should  properly  do  and  think  of  nothing  else 
than  LAW.2 

Thackeray  never  overcame  this  dislike,  and  expressed 
it  again  years  after  in  unmistakable  terms. 

On  the  other  side  of  the  third  landing,  where  Pen 
and  Warrington  live,  till  long  after  midnight,  sits 
Mr.  Paley,  who  took  the  highest  honours,  and  who  is 
a  fellow  of  his  college,  who  will  sit  and  read  and  note 
cases  until  two  o'clock  in  the  morning  ;  who  will  rise 
at  seven  and  be  at  the  pleader's  chambers  as  soon  as 
they  are  open,  where  he  will  work  until  an  hour 
before  dinner-time  ;  who  will  come  home  from  Hall 
and  read  and  note  cases  again  until  dawn  next  day, 
when  perhaps  Mr.  Arthur  Pendennis  and  his  friend 
Mr.  Warrington  are  returning  from  some  of  their 
wild  expeditions.  How  differently  employed  Mr. 
Paley  has  been  !     He  has  not  been  throwing  himself 

^  Pendennis,  chap,  xxxi ;  (first  edition). 
^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  88. 


1832]  CHARLES   BULLER  Z7 

away  :  he  has  only  been  bringing  a  great  intellect 
laboriously  down  to  the  comprehension  of  a  mean 
subject,  and  in  his  fierce  grasp  of  that,  resolutely 
excluding  from  his  mind  all  higher  thoughts,  all 
better  things,  all  the  wisdom  of  philosophers  and 
historians,  all  the  thoughts  of  poets ;  all  wit, 
fancy,  reflection,  art,  love,  truth  altogether — so 
that  he  may  master  that  enormous  Legend  of  the 
law,  which  he  proposes  to  gain  his  livelihood  by 
expounding.  Warrington  and  Paley  had  been 
competitors  for  university  honours  in  former  days, 
and  had  run  each  other  hard  ;  and  everybody 
said  now  that  the  former  was  wasting  his  time  and 
energies,  whilst  all  people  praised  Paley  for  his 
industry.  There  may  be  doubts,  however,  as  to 
which  was  using  his  time  best.  The  one  could 
afford  time  to  think,  and  the  other  never  could.  The 
one  could  have  sympathies  and  do  kindnesses ;  and 
the  other  must  needs  be  always  selfish.  He  could 
not  cultivate  a  friendship  or  do  a  charity,  or  admire 
a  work  of  genius,  or  kindle  at  the  sight  of  beauty  or 
the  sound  of  a  sweet  song — he  had  no  time,  and  no 
eyes  for  anything  but  his  law-books.  All  was  dark 
outside  his  reading-lamp.  Love,  and  Nature,  and 
Art  (which  is  the  expression  of  our  praise  and  sense 
of  the  beautiful  world  of  God)  were  shut  out  from 
him.  And  as  he  turned  off  his  lonely  lamp  at  night, 
he  never  thought  but  that  he  had  spent  the  day 
profitably,  and  went  to  sleep  alike  thankless  and 
remorseless.  But  he  shuddered  when  he  met  his  old 
companion  Warrington  on  the  stairs,  and  shunned 
him  as  one  that  was  doomed  to  perdition.^ 

Delighted  with  any  good  excuse  to  absent  himself 
from  Taprell's,  in  June  1832  Thackeray  eagerly  ac- 
cepted an  invitation  to  go  to  Liskeard  to  canvass  for 
Charles  Buller,  who  was  intimately  associated  with  the 
school  of  philosophic  radicalism,  the  friend  of  Grote, 

^  Pendennis,  chap,  xxx  (first  edition). 


88     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1831- 

Sir  William  Molesworth,  and  John  Stuart  Mill,  and  the 
pupil  of  Carlyle,  who  described  him  as  a  "  fine  honest 
fellow,  the  greatest  radical  I  have  ever  met."  Duller 
had  sat  since  1830  for  West  Looe,  Cornwall,  but,  this 
pocket  borough  having  been  disfranchised  by  the 
Reform  Bill  of  1832,  he  now  offered  himself  as  a  can- 
didate for  the  neighbouring  constituency  ;  and  being 
unfortunately  too  ill  to  leave  London,  the  task  of 
visiting  the  voters  devolved  upon  his  brother  Arthur 
and  Thackeray.  The  young  men  worked  hard,  can- 
vassing farmers,  dining  with  attorneys,  writing 
addresses,  and  attending  meetings  ;  and  were  re- 
warded by  the  return  to  the  first  reformed  Parliament 
of  Duller,  who  retained  his  seat  until  his  death  in  1848. 
"  Isn't  it  an  awful  sudden  summons,"  Thackeray  wrote 
to  Mrs.  Brookfield,  on  hearing  the  sad  news  of  his 
friend's  demise.  '*  There  go  wit,  fame,  friendship, 
ambition,  high  repute."^ 

Who  knows  the  inscrutable  design  ? 

Blessed  be  He  who  took  and  gave  ! 
Why  should  your  mother,  Charles,  not  mine, 

Be  weeping  at  her  darling's  grave  ?  ^ 

In  Thackeray's  diary  there  is  an  entry  on  July  18, 
1832,  "  Here  is  the  day  for  which  I  have  been  panting 
so  long " — on  this  day  he  attained  his  majority  and 
came  into  possession  of  a  patrimony  that  has  been 
variously  estimated  at  ten  thousand  pounds  and  at  five 
hundred  a  year. 

I  have  been  lying  awake  this  morning  meditating 
on  the  wise  and  proper  manner  I  shall  employ  my 

^  A  Collection  of  Letters  of  IV.  M.  Thackeray ,  p.  34. 

2  Dr.  Birch  and  His  Young  Friends — The  End  of  the  Play, 


i832]  LOSES    HIS    PATRIMONY  89 

fortune  in  when  I  come  of  age,  which,  if  I  live  so  long, 
will  take  place  in  three  weeks.  First,  I  do  not 
intend  to  quit  my  little  chambers  in  the  Temple, 
then  I  will  take  a  regular  monthly  income,  which  I 
will  never  exceed.  .  .  .^ 

So,  from  Cornwall,  Thackeray  of  the  good  intentions 
had  written  to  his  mother,  but  these,  like  the  earlier 
and  equally  praiseworthy  resolves  of  boyhood,  were 
soon  abandoned,  for  no  sooner  had  he  attained  his 
majority  than  he  gave  up  even  the  pretence  of  reading 
for  the  bar,  and  went  to  Paris,  where  he  spent  some 
months  learning  to  speak  the  language  fluently,  read- 
ing— and  criticising  in  his  letters  home  what  he  read — 
drawing,  too,  and,  as  a  matter  of  course,  frequenting 
the  theatres. 

Thackeray  returned  to  England  in  December  (1832), 
and  stayed  for  a  while  at  Larkbeare  before  going  out 
into  the  world  to  earn  a  living.  A  fortune  yielding  an 
income  of  five  hundred  a  year  is  insufficient  to  support 
in  idleness  a  young  man  with  expensive  tastes,  and 
from  the  first  Thackeray  had  realised  he  must  work, 
not  indeed  for  the  necessaries,  but  for  the  luxuries  of 
life.  So  long  as  it  was  for  the  luxuries  only,  however, 
he  was  unwilling  to  enter  any  profession  uncongenial 
to  him,  and  he  had  therefore  abandoned  his  studies  for 
the  Bar ;  but  within  a  short  time  after  he  inherited 
his  patrimony  he  lost  most  of  it ;  some,  as  it  has 
been  said,  went  at  the  card-table,  and  some  to  settle 
his  debts  at  Cambridge,  where  he  had  spent  a  good 
deal  of  money  ;  and  more  in  an  Indian  bank  failure, 
that  doubtless  suggested  the  Bundelkund  Bank  incident 

^  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  92. 


90      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY   [1832 

in  **The  Newcomes."  An  income,  therefore,  had  now 
to  be  earned,  and,  since  there  were  fewer  professions 
then,  and  Thackeray  would  not  read  for  the  Bar,  was 
too  old  for  the  army  or  navy,  and  was  not  attracted  to 
the  Church  or  to  the  study  of  medicine,  there  was  noth- 
ing else  open  to  him  but  the  pursuit  of  art  or  letters. 
Great  results  spring  from  small  causes,  and  it  is  ex- 
tremely probable  that  English  literature  of  the  Victorian 
era  would  be  the  poorer  by  Thackeray's  works,  if  that 
author  had  not  lost  his  money  in  the  days  of  his 
youth. 


CHAPTER   VII 

IN   SEARCH   OF  A   PROFESSION   (1832-1836) 

Thackeray's  thoughts  incline  to  literature — becomes  proprietor  and 
editor  of  the  National  Standard — his  contributions  to  that  paper — 
the  failure  of  the  National  Standard — the  story  of  the  venture  re- 
lated in  "  Lovel  the  Widower" — he  proposes  to  become  a  painter — 
and  studies  at  Paris — his  fondness  for  Paris — his  first  visit  to  that 
city — Eyre  Evans  Crowe  and  his  family — Thackeray  on  the  artist's 
life  at  Paris — abandons  painting  for  caricature — "Flore  et  Zephyr" 
— offers  to  illustrate  "  Pickwick" — "  Mr.  Pickwick's  lucky  escape" — 
illustrates  most  of  his  own  books — aware  of  the  limitations  of  his  art 
— Charlotte  Bronte  on  Thackeray  as  illustrator. 

THACKERAY'S  thoughts  had  often  turned 
to  literature,  probably  in  the  first  instance 
thereto  directed  by  the  appreciation  shown 
by  his  college  friends  of  his  contributions 
to  the  Snoh  and  Gownsman.  At  Weimar,  besides  con- 
ceiving the  project  to  present  Schiller  in  an  English 
dress,  the  idea  occurred  to  him  to  write  for  the  English 
public  a  book  on  Germany  and  German  literature,  but 
he  made  not  the  slightest  attempt  to  carry  out  these 
schemes ;  nor  did  his  acquaintance  with  **  Father 
Prout,"  Maginn,  and  Giffard  of  the  Standard,  inspire 
him  to  literary  labours.  Yet  all  the  time  the  notion 
was  at  the  back  of  his  mind,  and  it  needed  but  an  in- 
centive to  set  him  to  work.  Charles  Duller  wrote  for 
the  magazines :  why  not  he  !  he  said  to  his  mother. 
The  idea  was  fascinating,  but  he  was  doubtful  of  his 

91 


92      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

powers.  How  can  a  man  know  his  capabilities,  he 
asked  very  naturally  and  very  wisely  ;  but  in  the  same 
breath  compared  his  untried  talent  with  that  of  Duller, 
then  at  the  zenith  of  his  popularity.  Even  so  did 
Benjamin  Disraeli,  seated  in  the  Strangers'  Gallery 
of  the  House  of  Commons,  mentally  measure  swords 
with  the  parliamentary  giants,  and  decide  he  could 
beat  them  all  with  their  own  weapons.  But  while 
Disraeli  was  from  the  start  ambitious,  Thackeray, 
until  he  lost  his  money,  was  well  contented  with  things 
as  they  were. 

When  the  necessity  for  work  arose,  the  opportunity 
soon  presented  itself.  By  a  happy  accident  Major 
Carmichael-Smyth,  perhaps  in  the  hope  to  retrieve  the 
losses  he  had  suffered  in  the  bank  failure,  and  prob- 
ably also  with  the  desire  to  give  his  stepson  an 
opening  in  journalism,  became  connected  with  the 
National  Sta^idard  and  Journal  of  Literature^  Sciencey 
Music y  Theatricals y  and  the  Fine  Arts.  This  grandilo- 
quently named  weekly  was  founded  by  F.  W.  N. 
(** Alphabet")  Bayley,^  under  whose  direction  the  first 
number  appeared  on  January  5,  1833.  Exactly  when 
Thackeray  began  to  contribute  to  this  periodical  cannot 
be  stated,  but  his  first  identified  contribution  appeared 
in  the  issue  for  May  4,  about  which  time  he  purchased 
the  paper. 

Under  the  heading  of  the  National  Standard  of 
ours  [so  began  Thackeray's  Address  in  the  nineteenth 
number,  dated  May  11],  there  originally  appeared 
the  following:   "Edited  by  F.  W.  N.  Bayley,  Esq., 

^  Frederick  William  Naylor  Bayley  (1808- 1853),  the  author  of  many 
verses,  novels,  etc.,  contributed  to  the  Times  and  the  Morning  Post ; 
and  edited  the  National  Omnibus  and  the  Illustrated  London  News. 


1836]  THE  NATIONAL   STANDARD  93 

.  .  .  assisted  by  the  most  eminent  Literary  Men  of 
the  Day."  Now  we  have  change  tout  cela ;  no,  not 
exactly  tout  cela,  for  we  still  retain  the  assistance 
of  a  host  of  literary  talent,  but  Frederick  William 
Naylor  Bayley  has  gone.  We  have  got  free  of  the 
Old  Bailey,  and  changed  the  Governor. 

The  difficulty  under  which  Thackeray  laboured  all  his 
life  was  to  begin  to  work,  but,  this  trouble  overcome, 
the  rest  was  easy.  So  it  was  at  this  early  date  that, 
once  started  as  editor  of  the  National  Standard^  his 
activity  was  remarkable :  he  contributed  to  his  paper, 
verses,  drawings,  stories,  dramatic  criticisms,  trans- 
lations of  poems  and  prose,  editorial  leaders,  reviews. 
Not  a  tithe  of  the  matter  has  been  identified,  and  it 
would  be  waste  of  time  to  attempt  to  trace  his  writings: 
what  is  known  may  be  taken  as  representative  of  the 
rest,  and  among  this  there  is  nothing  remarkable,  the 
verses  are  crude  doggerel,  the  stories  indifferent,  and 
much  of  the  criticism  jejune.  The  last  two  lines  on 
some  verses  on  Louis  Philippe,  his  earliest  identified 
contribution,  are,  however,  noticeable  for  the  intro- 
duction of  the  word  ''snob"  used  in  the  sense  that 
had  not  then  become  common  : 

He  stands  in  Paris  as  you  see  him  before  ye, 

Little  more  than  a  snob — There's  an  end  of  the  story  ;  ^ 

and  the  review  of  Robert  Montgomery's  ''Woman  of 
Life"  has  a  characteristic  Titmarshian  conclusion,  for, 
after  the  quotation  of  fourteen  lines  from  the  poem,  is 
a  note  : 

These  are  nice  verses.    On  examination  we  find  that 
the  compositor,  by  some  queer  blunder,  had  printed 

^  National  Standard^  May  4,  1833. 


94     WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

them  backwards  ;  but,  as  it  does  not  seem  to  spoil 
the  sense,  we  shall  not  give  him  the  trouble  of 
setting  them  up  again.  They  are  just  as  good  one 
way  as  the  other  ;  and,  indeed,  the  same  might  be 
said  of  the  whole  book.^ 

Evidently  Mr.  Charles  James  Yellowplush  saw  this 
review,  and  was  amused  by  it,  for  he  emulated  its 
humour  when  he  was  writing  a  scathing  criticism  of 
"  Sawedwadgeorgearllyttnbulwig's "  play,  ''The  Sea- 
Captain,"  and  alluded  to  a  sentence  in  that  long-for- 
gotten play  that  he  had  tried  ''every  way,  backards, 
forards,  and  in  all  sorts  of  trancepositions,"  and  found 
"  all  which  are  as  sensible  as  the  fust  passidge." 

Not  long  after  Thackeray  entered  into  possession  of 
the  National  Standard a,ppea.red  an  announcement: — 
"The  Proprietors  of  the  National  Standard  feel  that 
it  would  be  unbecoming  to  commence  their  second 
Volume  without  acknowledging  the  extraordinary 
success  which  has  rewarded  their  labour  ;  success  they 
believe  unprecedented,  the  sale  of  their  Journal  having 
quadrupled  in  the  short  space  of  two  months.  They 
can  now  announce,  with  confidence,  that  the  National 
Sta7idard  is  established."  2  It  is  to  be  hoped,  for  the 
sake  of  the  editor's  reputation  for  veracity,  that  this 
emanated  from  the  fertile  brain  of  the  manager  of  the 
paper,  for,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  the  National  Standard 
was  at  this  time  established  on  no  firm  basis  :  its  cir- 
culation was  miserable,  and  advertisements,  without 
which  no  weekly  can  be  financially  successful,  were  con- 
spicuous by  their  absence  from  its  columns.  Thackeray 
laboured   manfully  and  spent   his  days  in   "writing, 

^  National  Standard,  June  15,  1833.  -  Ibid.,  July  6,  1S33. 


i836]  SPECIAL   CORRESPONDENT  95 

puffing,  and  other  delightful  employments"  for  the 
paper,  going  frequently  to  Paris,  thinking  it  looked 
well  for  the  paper  to  have  its  special  correspondent  in 
that  city.  In  September  he  told  his  mother  that  the 
National  Standard  was  ''growing  in  repute,"  but,  sad 
to  relate,  in  a  month  the  circulation  rose  only  by 
twenty,  and  then,  though  he  still  believed  the  periodical 
would  eventually  provide  him  with  an  occupation  and 
an  income,  he  began  to  realise  that  the  proprietor 
would  probably  be  ruined  before  the  venture  paid  its 
way.  A  last  despairing  effort  to  achieve  success  was 
made  with  the  first  number  of  the  new  year,  when  the 
price  was  raised  from  twopence  to  threepence,  and  the 
name  altered  to  the  scarcely  less  cumbrous  title,  the 
National  Standard  arid  Literary  Representative ;  but 
in  spite  of  the  confident  tone  of  the  ''Address"  in 
which  these  changes  were  announced,  the  issue  for 
February  i,  1834,  was  the  last  appearance  of  the 
National  Standard,  etc. 

There  can  be  little  doubt  that  Thackeray  was  thinking 
of  his  connection  with  the  National  Standard  v^\\tn  he 
wrote  of  the  unfortunate  newspaper  venture  in  "  Lovel 
the  Widower." 

They  are  welcome  ...  to  make  merry  at  my 
charges  in  respect  of  a  certain  bargain  which  I  made 
on  coming  to  London,  and  in  which,  had  I  been 
Moses  Primrose  purchasing  green  spectacles,  I  could 
scarcely  have  been  more  taken  in.  My  Jenkinson 
was  an  old  college  acquaintance,  whom  I  was  idiot 
enough  to  believe  a  respectable  man  :  the  fellow  had 
a  very  smooth  tongue,  and  sleek  sanctified  exterior. 
He  was  rather  a  popular  preacher,  and  used  to  cry  a 
good  deal  in  the  pulpit.  He  and  a  queer  wine-mer- 
chant and  bill-discounter,   Sherrick   by   name,   had 


96      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

somehow  got  possession  of  that  neat  little  literary- 
paper,  the  Museum,  which,  perhaps,  you  remember  ; 
and  this  eligible  literary  property  my  friend  Honey- 
man,  with  his  wheedling  tongue,  induced  me  to 
purchase.  ...  I  daresay  I  gave  myself  airs  as  the 
editor  of  that  confounded  Museum^  and  proposed  to 
educate  the  public  taste,  to  diffuse  morality  and 
sound  literature  throughout  the  nation,  and  to 
pocket  a  liberal  salary  in  return  for  my  services. 
I  daresay  I  printed  my  own  sonnets,  my  own 
tragedy,  my  own  verses.  ...  I  daresay  I  wrote 
satirical  articles  in  which  I  piqued  myself  on  the 
fineness  of  my  wit,  and  criticisms,  got  up  for  the 
nonce  out  of  encyclopaedias  and  biographical  diction- 
aries ;  so  that  I  would  be  actually  astonished  at  my 
own  knowledge.  I  daresay  I  made  a  gaby  of  myself 
to  the  world  :  pray,  my  good  friend,  hast  thou  never 
done  likewise?  If  thou  hast  never  been  a  fool,  be 
sure  thou  wilt  never  be  a  wise  man.^ 

After  the  failure  of  the  National  Standard  it  became 
necessary  for  Thackeray  in  all  seriousness  to  devote 
himself  to  a  profession  by  the  exercise  of  which  he 
might  support  himself.  Even  when  he  was  writing  a 
considerable  portion  of  each  number  of  the  National 
Standard^  his  thoughts  were  wandering  from  journalism 
to  art,  and  writing  from  Paris  in  July  1833  he  in- 
formed his  mother  that  he  was  ''thinking  very  seriously 
of  turning  artist." 

He  had  to  come  to  London  in  August  in  connection 
with  his  paper,  but  two  months  later  he  returned  to 
Paris,  and  settled  there  with  the  intention  to  study  art. 
At  first  he  stayed  at  the  house  of  his  maternal  grand- 
mother, but,  after  a  time,  he  found  irksome  the  re- 
strictions of  liberty  imposed  upon  a  guest,  and  rented 

1  Chap.  i. 


1836]  AT    PARIS  97 

**a  little  den "  in  the  Rue  des  Beaux  Arts.  There 
Planche  saw  him,  and,  describing  him  as  ''a  slim 
young  man,  rather  taciturn  "  and  "  not  displaying  any 
particular  love  or  talent  for  literature,"  noted  that 
drawing  appeared  to  be  his  favourite  amusement,  and 
that  he  covered  any  scrap  of  paper  lying  about  with  the 
most  spirited  sketches  and  amusing  caricatures. 

Thackeray,  who  in  London  had  probably  attended 
Heatherley's  school  of  painting — the  "original"  of 
Gandish's  Academy  in  "The  Newcomes " — at  Paris 
studied  under  Brine,  the  well-known  impressionist 
painter,  and  subsequently  under  Gros,  who  committed 
suicide  in  June  1835. 

Thackeray  loved  Paris  all  the  days  of  his  life,  and 
those  who  hold  the  mistaken  belief  that  he  hated  France 
and  the  French  have  no  more  reason  to  do  so  than 
those  who  assert  that  he  hated  the  Irish  ;  if  he  pre- 
sented some  Frenchmen  as  despicable  characters,  so  he 
poured  contempt  on  many  Englishmen,  and  one  of  the 
most  exquisite  creations  of  his  fancy  is  that  most 
charming  lady,  Madame  de  Florae.  Thackeray  went 
for  the  first  time  to  Paris  in  the  Easter  vacation  of  1830 
to  join  Edward  FitzGerald. 

I  remember  as  a  boy  at  the  Ship  at  Dover  {imper- 
ante  Carolo  Decimo),  when,  my  place  to  London 
being  paid,  I  had  but  12s.  left  after  a  certain  little 
Paris  expedition  (about  which  my  benighted  parents 
never  knew  anything),  ordering  for  dinner  a  whiting, 
a  beef-steak,  and  a  glass  of  negus,  and  the  bill  was, 
dinner  7s.,  a  glass  of  negus  2s.,  waiter  6d.,  and  only 
half-a-crown  left,  as  I  was  a  sinner,  for  the  guard  and 
coachman  on  the  way  to  London  !  And  I  was  a 
sinner.  I  had  gone  without  leave.  What  a  long, 
dreary,  guilty  four  hours'  journey  it  was,  from  Paris 

I.— H 


98      WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

to  Calais,  I  remember  !  .  .  .  I  met  my  college  tutor 
only  yesterday.  We  were  travelling,  and  stopped 
at  the  same  hotel.  He  had  the  very  next  room  to 
mine.  After  he  had  gone  into  his  apartment,  having 
shaken  me  quite  kindly  by  the  hand,  I  felt  inclined 
to  knock  at  his  door  and  say,  "  Dr.  Bentley,  I  beg 
your  pardon,  but  do  you  remember,  when  I  was 
going  down  at  the  Easter  vacation  in  1830,  you  asked 
me  where  I  was  going  to  spend  my  vacation?  And 
I  said,  with  my  friend  Slingsby  in  Huntingdonshire. 
Well,  sir,  I  grieve  to  have  to  confess  that  I  told  you 
a  fib.  I  had  got  £10  and  was  going  for  a  lark  to 
Paris,  where  my  friend  Edwards  was  staying."  .  .  . 
The  doctor  will  read  it,  for  I  did  not  wake  him  up.^ 

This  was  the  first  of  many  visits,  and  much  of  his 
leisure  was  spent  in  this  city.  He  had  a  great  number 
of  friends  there,  and  nowhere  was  he  more  welcome 
than  at  the  house  of  Eyre  Evans  Crowe,  the  Paris 
correspondent  of  the  Morning  Chronicle^  the  father  of 
Amy,  Joseph  and  Eyre.  *'Once  a  week,  on  Satur- 
days, my  mother  received  guests  in  the  evening,"  Sir 
Joseph  Crowe  has  recorded.  **My  mother  at  her 
evenings  made  everyone  bright  by  playing  Irish  jigs 
or  Scotch  reels,  or  accompanying  on  the  piano 
Methfessel's  students'  songs  and  choruses,  the  supreme 
enjoyment  being  a  song  from  Thackeray."^  When 
the  Crowes  settled  in  1844  at  Hampstead,  Thackeray 
frequently  rode  there  on  his  short  cob.  **  Once  in  our 
drawing-room  he  was  apt  to  forget  the  hours,"  says 
Sir  Joseph;  '* would  stop  to  partake  of  an  early 
dinner,  though  bound  to  join  a  later  festivity  of  the 
same  kind  elsewhere  ;  and  I  recollect  him  now,  as  if 
it  were  yesterday,  wiping  his  brow  after  trying  vainly 

^  Dessein's.  ^  Sir  Joseph  Crowe:  Reminisce7ices, 


1836]  EYRE   EVANS   CROWE  99 

to  help  the  leg  of  a  tough  fowl,  and  saying  he  was 
'heaving  a  thigh.' "^  Thackeray,  always  grateful  for 
kindness  shown  him  in  the  days  of  his  struggles,  was 
delighted  later  to  be  able  to  render  the  younger  mem- 
bers of  the  family  many  good  services.  When,  in 
1854,  Charles  Mackay  asked  him  to  go  to  the  seat  of 
war  to  furnish  sketches  for  letters  for  the  Illustrated 
News,  he  induced  the  editor  to  send  Joseph  in  his 
place  ;  and  on  the  young  man's  return,  inaugurated 
a  scheme  for  him  to  make  money  by  lecturing  on  the 
war.  Eyre  was  for  a  while  the  great  man's  secretary, 
and  went  with  him  on  one  of  the  lecture  tours  to 
America.  "Six  months  tumbling  about  the  world 
will  do  you  no  harm,"  he  said  to  the  young  artist; 
and  later  he  took  Amy  into  his  house,  where  she  was 
treated  as  a  daughter,  until  she  married  her  host's 
cousin,  now  Colonel  Sir  Edward  Thackeray,  v.c,  and 
went  to  India,  where  she  succumbed  to  the  tropical 
climate. 

When  Thackeray  had  been  studying  art  for  some 
months  at  Paris,  he  reported  himself  satisfied  with 
his  progress,  and  intimated  his  belief  that  in  a  year, 
if  he  worked  hard,  he  might  paint  something  worth 
looking  at ;  but  he  remarked  naively  that  he  would 
require  at  least  that  time  to  gain  any  readiness  with 
his  brush  ! 

Until  that  happy  day  should  arrive  when  he  would 
be  a  full-fledged  artist,  he,  to  some  extent,  threw  in  his 
lot  with  his  fellow-students,  and  thoroughly  enjoyed 
the  happy-go-lucky  Bohemian  existence  ;  albeit  he 
complained  of  the  impurity  of  the  ideas  of  the  French 

'  Sir  Joseph  Crowe  :  Reminiscences. 


lOo    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

artists,  and  of  the  jargon  of  a  corrupt  life  which  they 
unwisely  admitted  into  their  painting-rooms.^ 

The  life  of  the  young  (French)  artist  is  the  easiest, 
merriest,  dirtiest  existence  possible.  He  comes  to 
Paris,  probably  at  sixteen,  from  his  province  ;  his 
parents  settle  forty  pounds  a  year  on  him,  and  pay 
his  master  ;  he  establishes  himself  in  the  Pays 
Latin,  or  in  the  new  quarter  of  Notre  Dame  de 
Lorette  (which  is  quite  peopled  with  painters)  ;  he 
arrives  at  his  atelier  at  a  tolerably  early  hour,  and 
labours  among  a  score  of  companions  as  merry  and 
as  poor  as  himself.  Each  gentleman  has  his  favour- 
ite tobacco-pipe  ;  and  the  pictures  are  painted  in  the 
midst  of  a  cloud  of  smoke,  and  a  din  of  puns  and 
choice  French  slang,  and  a  roar  of  choruses,  of 
which  no  one  can  form  an  idea  who  has  not  been 
present  at  such  an  assembly.  .  .  .  How  he  passes 
his  evenings,  at  what  theatres,  at  what  guinguettesy 
in  company  with  what  seducing  little  milliner,  there 
is  no  need  to  say.  .  .  .  These  young  men  (together 
with  the  students  of  sciences)  comport  themselves 
towards  the  sober  citizens  pretty  much  as  the  German 
bursch  towards  the  philister^  or  as  the  military  man, 
during  the  Empire,  did  to  the pekm : — from  the  height 
of  their  poverty  they  look  down  upon  him  with  the 
greatest  imaginable  scorn — a  scorn,  I  think,  by 
which  the  citizen  is  dazzled,  for  his  respect  for  the 
arts  is  intense.- 

Then  as  now  Paris  was  the  artist's  paradise,  for  there 
more  than  anywhere  else  he  was  appreciated,  under- 
stood, and  well  provided  with  schools  wherein  to  study 
his  profession. 

To  account  for  a  superiority  over  England, — 
which  I  think,  as  regards  art,  is  incontestable — it 
must   be   remembered   that    the   painter's   trade,    in 

'    The  Paris  Sketch  Book — On  the  French  School  of  Painting. 
'  J.  K.  Laughton  :  Memoirs  of  Henry  Reeve^  Vol.  I,  p.  35. 


1836]  PAINTING  101 

France,  is  a  very  good  one :  better  appreciated, 
better  understood,  and,  generally,  far  better  paid 
than  with  us.  There  are  a  dozen  excellent  schools 
in  which  a  lad  may  enter  here,  and,  under  the  eye  of 
a  practised  master,  learn  the  apprenticeship  of  his 
art  at  an  expense  of  about  ten  pounds  a  year.  In 
England  there  is  no  school  except  the  Academy, 
unless  the  student  can  afford  to  pay  a  very  large 
sum  and  place  himself  under  the  tuition  of  some 
particular  artist.  Here,  a  young  man,  for  his 
ten  pounds,  has  all  sorts  of  accessory  instruction, 
models,  etc.  ;  and  has,  further,  and  for  nothing, 
numberless  incitements  to  study  his  profession  which 
are  not  to  be  found  in  England, — the  streets  are 
filled  with  picture-shops,  the  people  themselves  are 
pictures  walking  about  ;  the  churches,  theatres, 
eating-houses,  concert-rooms  are  covered  with  pic- 
tures ;  Nature  herself  is  inclined  more  kindly  to  him, 
for  the  sky  is  a  thousand  times  more  bright  and 
beautiful,  and  the  sun  shines  for  the  greater  part  of 
the  year.  Add  to  this  incitements  more  selfish,  but 
quite  as  powerful :  a  French  artist  is  paid  very 
handsomely ;  for  five  hundred  a  year  is  much  where 
all  are  poor  ;  and  has  a  rank  in  society  rather  above 
his  merits  than  below  them,  being  caressed  by  hosts 
and  hostesses  in  places  where  titles  are  laughed  at, 
and  a  baron  is  thought  of  no  more  account  than  a 
banker's  clerk. ^ 

At  this  time  Thackeray  was  frequently  at  the  picture- 
galleries,  copying  pictures,  at  one  time  a  Watteau,  at 
another  a  Lucas  van  Leyden  ('^a  better  man,  I  think, 
than  Albert  Diirer,  and  mayhap  as  great  a  composer  as 
Raphael  himself");  but  he  soon  discovered  it  was 
extremely  unlikely  he  would  ever  make  any  success 
as  a  serious  painter,  and  this  opinion  his  friend,  Henry 
Reeve,   who  chanced   to  be  at  Paris,  could  not  con- 

^  The  Paris  Sketch  Book — On  the  French  School  of  Painting. 


I02    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

tradict.  "Thackeray's  drawings,  if  I  may  judge  by 
his  notebook,  are  as  pure  and  accurate  as  any  I  have 
seen,"  said  the  future  editor  of  the  Edinburgh  Review. 
"  He  is  a  man  whom  I  would  willingly  set  to  copy  a 
picture  of  Raphael's,  as  far,  at  least,  as  the  drawing 
goes  ;  but  he  does  not  seem  likely  to  get  into  a  system 
of  massive  colouring,  if  I  may  judge  by  what  he 
said."^  The  subject  of  this  criticism  bore  his  dis- 
appointment philosophically,  and  soon  after  poked  fun 
at  himself: 

I  wish  you  could  see  my  historical  picture  of 
"  Heliogabalus  in  the  Ruins  of  Carthage";  or  the 
full  length  of  "Sir  Samuel  and  His  Lady" — sitting 
in  a  garden  light,  reading  "  The  Book  of  Beauty," 
Sir  Samuel  catching  a  butterfly,  which  is  settling  on 
a  flower-pot. 

About  the  time  that  Thackeray  discovered  he  would 
never  become  a  good  painter,  it  dawned  on  him,  or 
perhaps  was  suggested  to  him,  that  the  sketches  that  he 
used  to  draw  for  his  friends  might  have  some  commercial 
value.  He  found  one  Gibbs,  a  dealer  who  offered  to 
try  to  dispose  of  his  pen-and-ink  drawings  ;  and  he 
was  fortunate  enough  to  inspire  a  firm  of  publishers 
with  the  sense  of  the  merits  of  a  series  of  caricatures, 
entitled  "  Flore  et  Zephyr,"  a  title  probably  suggested 
by  a  ballet  of  that  name  then  popular  at  Paris.  The 
sketches,  eight  in  number,  appeared  in  March  1836 
as  the  work  of  "  Theophile  Wagstaffe,"  though  each 
drawing  is  signed  W.  T.  (in  a  monogram).  The  little 
book  attracted  no  attention  at  the  time,  but  the  cari- 

^  J.  K.  Laughton  :  Life  and  Correspondence  of  Henry  Reeve,  Vol.  I, 
P-  35- 


1836]  "FLORE   ET   ZEPHYR"  103 

catures  are  most  amusing,  and  the  grotesque  attitudes 
and  wonderful  contortions  of  the  dancers  show  that 
already  the  artist's  sense  of  humour  was  well  de- 
veloped. 

In  the  year  that  "Flore  et  Zephyr  "appeared,  Thack- 
eray thought  to  turn  an  honest  penny  by  furnishing 
illustrations  to  books.  A  chance  soon  offered.  Robert 
Seymour,  the  creator  of  the  original  design  of  Pickwick, 
had  completed  the  drawings  of  the  *' Pickwick  Papers  " 
for  the  first  two  or  three  monthly  numbers  when,  in 
a  fit  of  temporary  insanity,  he  committed  suicide  in 
April  1836.  His  place  was  taken  by  Robert  Buss, 
with  whose  work,  however,  the  author  was  not  satisfied ; 
and  Thackeray,  who  in  May  was  on  a  visit  to  London, 
hearing  that  a  new  artist  was  wanted,  applied  for  the 
work,  and  met  for  the  first  time  his  great  contemporary. 
Years  afterwards,  at  a  Royal  Academy  dinner,  rising 
after  Dickens  to  respond  to  the  toast  of  Literature,  he 
spoke  of  this  offer,  to  the  refusal  of  which  he  referred 
as  '*  Mr.  Pickwick's  lucky  escape." 

Had  it  not  been  for  the  direct  act  of  my  friend  who 
has  just  sat  down,  I  should  most  likely  never  have 
been  included  in  the  toast  which  you  have  been 
pleased  to  drink  ;  and  I  should  have  tried  to  be,  not 
a  writer,  but  a  painter,  or  designer  of  pictures.  That 
was  the  object  of  my  early  ambition,  and  I  can  re- 
member when  Mr.  Dickens  was  a  very  young  man, 
and  had  commenced  delighting  the  world  with  some 
charming  humorous  works,  of  which  I  cannot  men- 
tion the  name,  but  which  were  coloured  light  green, 
and  came  out  once  a  month,  this  young  man  wanted 
an  artist  to  illustrate  his  writings,  and  I  recollect 
walking  up  to  his  chambers  in  Furnival's  Inn  with 
two  or  three  drawings  in  my  hand,  which,  strange  to 
say,  he  did  not  find  suitable.     But  for  that  unfortu- 


I04    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

nate  blight  which  came  over  my  artistical  existence, 
it  would  have  been  my  pride  and  my  pleasure  to  have 
endeavoured  one  day  to  find  a  place  on  these  walls 
for  one  of  my  performances.  This  disappointment 
caused  me  to  direct  my  attention  to  a  different  walk 
of  art,  and  now  I  can  only  hope  to  be  "translated" 
on  these  walls,  as  I  have  been,  thanks  to  my  talented 
friend  Mr.  Egg. 

But  though  Dickens,  who  also  rejected  the  offers  of 
John  Leech  and  "  Crowquill "  in  favour  of  Hablot 
Knight  Browne,  would  not  accept  Thackeray's  aid, 
Thackeray  subsequently  found  some  authors  more 
obliging,  and  he  contributed,  besides  the  illustrations 
to  the  little  burlesques,  "King  Glumpus"  (1837)  ^^^ 
"The  Exquisites"  (1839),  twelve  plates  to  Douglas 
Jerrold's  "  Men  of  Character"  (1838),  and,  for  ;^20,  the 
same  number  of  coloured  sketches  to  Charles  Green- 
street  Addisons's  "Damascus  and  Palmyra"  (1838). 
Indeed,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  he  made  no  reference  to 
the  matter  in  the  speech  from  which  a  passage  is  quoted 
above,  to  the  end  of  his  days  he  poured  forth  drawings 
in  great  profusion. 

Thackeray  stands  alone  as  a  great  author  who  illus- 
trated his  own  books.  Besides  contributing  many 
hundred  sketches  to  Pimc/i,  he  produced  the  designs 
for  the  "Yellowplush  Correspondence",  "Major  Ga- 
hagan's  Reminiscences",  "Catherine",  "The  Paris 
Sketch  Book",  "  The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond",  "The 
Irish  Sketch  Book",  "  From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo", 
"Vanity  Fair",  "Mrs.  Perkins's  Ball",  "  Our  Street", 
"Pendennis",  "Dr.  Birch  and  His  Young  Friends", 
"The  Kickleburys  on  the  Rhine",  "The  Rose  and 
the  Ring",  "The  Virginians",  "  Lovel  the  Widower", 


1836]  AS   ILLUSTRATOR  105 

and  the  *'  Roundabout  Papers."^  He  had  intended  to 
illustrate  ''The  Newcomes,"  but  eventually  he  aban- 
doned the  idea. 

I  have  turned  away  one  artist :  the  poor  creature 
was  utterly  incompetent  to  depict  the  sublime,  grace- 
ful, and  pathetic  personages  and  events  with  which 
this  history  will  most  assuredly  abound. ^ 

Richard  Doyle  was  entrusted  with  the  task,  and  the 
two  sketches  designed  by  Thackeray  were  adapted  and 
redrawn  by  the  former.  "He  does  beautifully  easily 
what  I  want  to  do  and  can't,"  Thackeray  declared,  with 
characteristic  generosity.  Afterwards,  however,  he  re- 
gretted he  had  entrusted  the  work  to  another  hand,  and 
when  Whitwell  Elwin  expressed  his  admiration  for  the 
conception  of  the  Colonel's  face  and  figure,  "  Oh,  yes," 
said  Thackeray,  "but  I  gave  it  to  Doyle.  I  drew  the 
Colonel  for  him."  Thackeray  found  it  troublesome  to 
draw  on  the  wood  the  illustrations  for  "  Philip,"  and 
some  of  the  sketches  were  made  on  paper  and  redrawn 
on  wood,  but  not  to  his  satisfaction.  Frederick  Walker 
was  then  engaged  to  redraw  some  of  the  sketches,  but 
soon  he  declared  himself  capable  of  better  work,  and 
declined  to  continue  the  task  ;  so  in  the  end  the  work 
was  left  in  his  hands  with  only  written  instructions  or 
sometimes  a  rough  pen-and-ink  sketch  by  the  author — 
the  "Good  Samaritans"  (in  chapter  xv.)  being  the  first 
illustration  executed  by  Walker  on  his  own  responsi- 
bility. 

All  his  life  Thackeray  preferred  the   pencil  to  the 

^  The  "  Fitz-Boodle  Papers  ",  "  Barry  Lyndon  "  and  "  Esmond  "  alone 
among-  Thackeray's  works  were  published  without  illustrations. 
^  The  Newcomes,  chap.  xv. 


io6    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

pen.  Often  he  found  writing  wearisome  and  the  strain 
of  composition  irksome  ;  and  there  were  times  even 
when  he  almost  hated  the  chain  that  held  him  to  the 
desk ;  but  he  always  turned  to  the  drawing-board  with 
pleasure.  "The  hours  which  he  spent  upon  his  draw- 
ing-blocks and  Sketch-books  brought  no  fatigue  or 
weariness :  they  were  of  endless  interest  and  amuse- 
ment to  him,  and  rested  him  when  he  was  tired,"  Lady 
Ritchie  has  recorded.  "  It  was  only  when  he  came  to 
etch  upon  steel  or  to  draw  for  the  engraver  upon  wood 
that  he  complained  of  effort  and  want  of  ease  ;  and  we 
used  often  to  wish  that  his  drawings  could  be  given  as 
they  were  first  made,  without  the  various  transmigra- 
tions of  wood  and  steel,  and  engraver's  toil,  and 
printer's  ink."^ 

Thackeray  was  at  his  best  when  illustrating  his 
writings,  and  there  has  rarely  been  an  artist  who  could 
make  his  drawings  so  helpful  to  the  text,  for  the  charac- 
ters are  as  truly  depicted  by  the  pencil  as  by  the  pen, 
and  they  tell  the  story  together.  His  drawing  may  not 
always  have  been  correct,  the  perspective  may  occa- 
sionally have  been  wrong — "Some  of  my  folk  have 
scarcely  more  legs  than  Miss  Biffin  ;  they  have  fins 
instead  of  hands — they  squint  almost  every  one  of 
them!  "^ — but  for  quaint  fancy  and  humour  his  illustra- 
tions have  rarely  been  surpassed. 

Take  "Vanity  Fair,"  and  study  the  pictorial  work  from 
the  opening  initial  "  W"  to  the  tailpiece,  at  the  end  of  the 
last  chapter,  which  shows  the  children  shutting  up  the 
puppets  in  the  box  after  the  play  is  played  out.     Look 

^  The  Orphan  of  Pimlico  :  Preface. 

^  A  Grumble  About  the  Christmas  Books. 


Kli 


1836]  HIS   DRAWINGS  107 

at  the  drawings  on  the  cover  of  the  monthly  parts  and 
on  the  title-page — the  former  portraying  the  jester, 
standing  on  the  cask,  haranguing  the  open-mouthed 
yokels  ;  the  latter  presenting  the  jester,  lying  on  the 
grass,  weary  and  worn,  looking  into  a  glass  which 
reflects  a  countenance  that  is  anything  but  gay.  Look 
at  Becky  showing  off  her  doll,  "  Miss  Jemmy,"  to  her 
father's  rather  dissolute  Bohemian  friends ;  or,  all 
alone,  building  a  house  of  cards  that,  we  know  full 
well,  will  sooner  or  later  fall,  after  the  fashion  of  such 
unstable  structures ;  or  fishing,  and  trying  to  hook 
stupid,  hulking,  conceited  Mr.  Jos;  or  as  a  governess 
in  the  schoolroom,  paying  just  so  much  attention  to 
her  charges  as  might  be  expected  from  a  lady  with  her 
turn  of  mind.  Why,  the  slender  thread  of  the  story  of 
Miss  Rebecca  Sharp  might  be  reconstructed  from  the 
drawings.  Look  at  Dobbin  and  Cuff  fighting  (in  a 
capital  C) ;  or  at  Miss  Eliza  Styles  (better  known  as 
Captain  Rawdon  Crawley)  reading  a  letter  from  his 
wife  at  Mr.  Barnet's,  saddler,  Knightsbridge,  near  the 
barracks ;  or  at  Moss  arresting  Rawdon  in  Gaunt 
Square,  while  the  bailiff's  companion  whistles  for  a 
hackney  coach  to  convey  the  trio  to  the  sponging  house 
in  Cursitor  Street.  Glance  at  the  tailpiece  to  chapter  ix 
— a  delightful  sketch  of  that  sad  jester  Thackeray 
himself.  Turn  over  the  pages  and,  on  the  eve  of  the 
battle  of  Waterloo,  compare  Becky,  slumbering  tran- 
quilly, with  Mrs.  Major  O'Dowd,  as  Venus,  preparing 
the  arms  of  Mars,  her  husband,  who  is  sleeping 
soundly.  Turn  over  again,  and  observe  Miss  Horrocks 
of  the  ribbons  playing  the  piano  with  the  sycophantic 
Hester  by  her  side,  all  admiration  ;  and  then  glance  at 


io8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 

Sir  Pitt  nursed  by  Hester,  the  ill-conditioned  bullying 
attendant. 

If  space  permitted,  it  would  be  easy  to  go  through 
each  of  the  novels  and  point  out  sketch  after  sketch 
delightful  to  regard.  The  "Christmas  Books"  owe 
more  than  half  their  charm  to  the  plates.  Take  the 
portraits  of  Mr.  Titmarsh  and  Mr.  Mulligan  of  Bally- 
mulligan,  of  Mr.  Flam,  of  Mr.  Larkins ;  of  those 
famous  literary  lights.  Miss  Bunion  and  Mr.  Hicks  ; 
of  Miss  Trotter,  whose  face  brightens  at  the  arrival  of 
the  hideous  but  wealthy  Lord  Methuselah ;  of  Mr. 
Beaumoris,  Mr.  Grig,  and  Mr.  Flanders,  and  a  host 
of  others,  all  present  at  "Mrs.  Perkins's  Ball."  "I 
think  that  the  empty  faces  of  the  dance-room  were 
never  done  better,"  said  Edward  FitzGerald,  who 
years  earlier  had  been  so  pleased  with  Thackeray's 
fourteen  little  coloured  drawings  in  his  copy  of 
"  Undine"  that  he  wrote  to  John  Allen,  asking  if  he 
did  not  think  it  would  make  a  nice  book  to  publish  all 
the  papers  about  Sir  Roger  de  Coverley  alone,  with 
illustrations  by  Thackeray.  "Our  Street"  contains 
all  sorts  and  conditions  of  people  duly  sketched  by 
the  author,  from  the  inquisitive  old  woman  looking 
out  of  the  window  to  "the  lady  whom  nobody 
knows";  from  "the  lion  of  the  street,"  Clarence 
Bulbul,  who  wrote  the  Mayfair  love-song,  "The 
Cane-Bottomed  Chair,"  to  "the  happy  family,"  in 
which  plate  is  depicted  the  pleasant  home-life  of  the 
Fairfaxes.  The  drawings  of  "The  Rose  and  the 
Ring  "  which  have  delighted  several  generations  of 
great  and  small  children,  were  begun  at  Rome  as 
Twelfth  Night  pictures  for  his  children.     Thackeray 


1836]  GEORGE   CRUIKSHANK  109 

revelled  in  this  labour  of  love  :  all  his  life  he  loved  to 
amuse  children,  and  to  his  fondness  for  the  ''  little 
'uns  "  he  has  left  this  abiding  memorial. 

Thackeray  suffered  from  no  misapprehension  as  to 
the  value  of  his  gift,  and  he  was  well  aware  of  his 
limitations.  When  a  man  in  all  good  faith  said  to 
him,  "  But  you  c«;z  draw,"  he  set  him  down  instantly 
— and  unjustly — as  a  snob  and  a  flatterer  ;  and  Mr. 
Corkran  found  him  fretting  over  a  sketch  :  "  Look," 
he  said  to  the  visitor,  "now,  Cruikshank,  by  a  few 
touches,  throwing  some  light  and  shadow  here  and 
there,  would  make  this  a  picture.  How  it  is  I  know 
not,  but  I  certainly  cannot  do  it  at  all."  "  My  pencils 
don't  draw  like  yours,"  he  said  prettily  to  Marcus 
Stone ;  and,  laughing  at  himself,  he  wrote  in  the 
'fifties  to  Edmund  Yates  : 

You  have  a  new  artist  on  the  Tram,  I  see,  dear 
Yates.  I  have  been  looking  at  his  work,  and  I  have 
solved  a  problem.  I  find  there  is  a  man  alive  who 
draws  worse  than  myself.^ 

Cruikshank  claimed  Thackeray  as  a  pupil.  He 
taught  him  etching,  and  thought  him  clever  with  his 
pencil,  though,  he  declared,  "  He  had  not  the  patience 
to  be  an  artist  with  pencil  or  brush.  I  used  to  tell 
him  that  to  be  an  artist  was  to  burrow  along  like  a 
mole,  heaving  up  a  little  mound  here  and  there  for 
a  long  distance."^  Thackeray,  indeed,  was  not  ignor- 
ant of  his  lack  of  technical  skill  as  an  etcher,  and  he 
asked  Henry  Vizetelly  to  find  him  someone  who  would 
etch  from  his  water-colour  sketch  the   frontispiece  to 

*  Yates  :  Recollections  and  Experiences. 

^  Blanchard  Jerrold  :  Life  of  George  Cruikshank. 


no  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1832- 
"  From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo."  The  work  was 
given  to  a  young  man  named  Thwaites,  who  subse- 
quently put  on  the  wood  a  number  of  the  drawings 
for  ''Mrs.  Perkins's  Ball." 

I  return  the  drawings  after  making  a  few  altera- 
tions in  them  (Thackeray  wrote  to  Vizetelly). 
Present  Mr.  Titmarsh's  compliments  to  your 
talented  young  man,  and  say  M.  A.  T.  would  take 
it  as  a  great  favour  if  he  would  kindly  confine  his 
improvements  to  the  Mulligan's  and  Mrs.  Perkins's 
other  guests'  extremities.  In  your  young  gentle- 
man's otherwise  praiseworthy  corrections  of  my 
vile  drawing,  a  certain  je  ne  sais  qiioiy  which  I 
flatter  myself  exists  in  the  original  sketches,  seems 
to  have  given  him  the  slip,  and  I  have  tried  in  vain 
to  recapture  it.  Somehow  I  prefer  my  own  Nurem- 
berg dolls  to  Mr.  Thwaites's  superfine  wax  models.^ 

Vizetelly  said  Thackeray  was  almost  as  fastidious 
as  Mr.  Ruskin  in  regard  to  the  manner  in  which 
his  sketches  were  transferred  to  the  wood  ;  and 
Thackeray  once  complained  to  "  Practical  John " 
Hollingshead  :  'Tm  not  a  first-rate  artist,  I  know; 
but  I'm  not  half  as  bad  as  those  fellows,  the  wood- 
cutters, make  me  "  ;  and  indeed  much  of  the  delicacy 
of  expression  was  lost  in  the  process.  But  though 
Thackeray  lacked  academic  correctness  and  technical 
mastery,  the  undeniable  originality  and  humour  of 
his  drawings  will  secure  for  them  a  very  long  lease 
of  life  and  for  him  a  high  place  in  the  ranks  of  the 
caricaturists.  Charlotte  Bronte  thought  "Thackeray's 
rude,  careless  sketches  preferable  to  thousands  of 
carefully  finished  paintings  "  ;2  and  when  the  question 

^  Vizetelly:  Glances  Back  Through  Seventy  Years,  Vol.  I,  p.  283. 
^  Clement  Shorter  :   The  Brontes,  Vol.  II,  p.  37. 


1836]  CHARLOTTE   BRONTE  iii 

of  an  illustrator  for  one  of  her  novels  was  raised, 
*' You  will  not  easily  find  a  second  Thackeray,"  she 
wrote  to  W.  S.  Williamson  March  11,  1848.  '*  How 
he  can  render,  with  a  few  black  lines  and  dots,  shades 
of  expression  so  fine,  so  real  ;  traits  of  character  so 
minute,  so  subtle,  so  difficult  to  seize  and  fix,  I  cannot 
tell — I  can  only  wonder  and  admire.  Thackeray  may 
not  be  a  painter,  but  he  is  a  wizard  of  a  draughts- 
man ;  touched  with  his  pencil,  paper  lives.  And  then 
his  drawing  is  so  refreshing  ;  after  the  wooden  limbs 
one  is  accustomed  to  see  portrayed  by  commonplace 
illustrators,  his  shapes  of  bone  and  muscle  clothed 
with  flesh,  correct  in  proportion  and  anatomy,  are  a 
real  relief.  All  is  true  in  Thackeray.  If  Truth  were 
again  a  goddess,  Thackeray  should  be  her  high 
priest.  "1 

^  Clement  Shorter  :  The  Brontes,  Vol.  I,  p.  402. 


CHAPTER   VIII 

MARRIAGE    (1836-1840) 

Major  Carmichael-Smyth  founds  the  Constitutional  newspaper — and 
appoints  Thackeray  Paris  Correspondent  —  Thackeray  marries 
Isabella  Getkin  Creagh  Shawe  at  Paris — works  on  Galignant  s  Mes- 
senger— happy  days — "  Bouillabaisse  " — summoned  to  London  to 
manag'e  the  Constitutional — the  failure  of  the  Constitutional — 
Thackeray  and  his  wife  stay  with  his  mother — takes  a  house  in  Great 
Coram  Street,  Bloomsbury — the  birth  of  his  two  eldest  daughters — 
Bloomsbury  in  his  books — the  Foundling-  Hospital — his  fondness  of 
children — the  British  Museum — "Going  to  See  a  Man  Hanged" — 
his  third  daughter  born — his  wife's  illness — the  compulsory  separa- 
tion— the  happiness  of  his  brief  married  life — his  love  for  his 
children. 

THACKERAY,  who  had  abandoned  journal- 
ism for  painting,  and  painting  for  cari- 
cature, was  to  revert  to  his  first  em- 
ployment. In  the  spring  of  1836  he  was 
summoned  to  London  by  Major  Carmichael-Smyth  to 
assist  at  the  discussion  of  a  project  to  establish  a  new 
radical  daily  paper,  which  should  advocate  the  ballot, 
triennial  parliaments,  the  complete  freedom  of  the 
press,  and  religious  liberty  and  equality.  Joseph 
Hume,  George  Grote,  George  Evans,  Charles  Duller, 
William  Ewart,  Sir  William  Molesworth,  John  Arthur 
Roebuck,  and  other  leaders  of  the  advanced  party  pro- 
mised their  support ;  and  the  Metropolitan  Newspaper 
Company  was  formed,  with  a  capital  of  £60,000  in  six 

112 


1836]  THE   CONSTITUTIONAL  113 

thousand  shares  of  ;^io  each — £^  paid  up — with  Major 
Carmichael-Smyth  as  chairman.  The  Public  Ledger^ 
a  respectable  paper  with  a  small  and  ever  decreasing 
circulation,  was  purchased,  renamed  the  Constitutional 
{and  Public  Ledger)^  and  the  first  number  under  the 
auspices  of  the  Company  appeared  on  September  15, 
1836,  on  which  day  the  Stamp  Duty  on  newspapers 
was  reduced.  Laman  Blanchard  was  installed  in  the 
editorial  chair  ;  to  Thornton  Hunt,  the  eldest  son  of 
Leigh  Hunt,  was  entrusted  the  political  department ; 
and,  through  the  influence  of  his  stepfather,  Thackeray 
was  appointed  Paris  Correspondent  with  a  salary  of 
£afxt  a  year. 

**That  excellent  and  facetious  being,  Thackeray  .  .  . 
has  fallen  in  love,  and  talks  of  being  married  in  less 
than  twenty  years.  What  is  there  so  affecting  as 
matrimony?"  Henry  Reeve  noted  in  his  diary  on 
January  16,  1836.  "  I  dined  yesterday  with  his  object, 
who  is  a  nice,  simple,  girlish  girl ;  a  niece  of  old 
Colonel  Shawe,  whom  one  always  meets  at  the  Stir- 
lings."  ^  The  "  nice,  simple,  girlish  girl  "  was  Isabella 
Getkin  Creagh  Shawe,  and  Thackeray  was  married  to 
her  on  April  20,  1836,  the  ceremony  being  performed 
at  the  British  Embassy  at  Paris  by  Bishop  Luscombe. 

Thackeray  was  at  this  time  mainly  dependent  on  his 
salary  from  the  Constitutional^  but  financial  considera- 
tions were  not  regarded :  he  took  the  step  fearlessly, 
and  neither  then  nor  later  would  admit  its  imprudence. 
Indeed,  he  was  always  an  advocate  of  what  the  world 
calls  improvident  marriages,  and  his  liking  for  Harry 
Longueville  Jones,  with  whom  he  was  *'  working  on 

^  J.  K.  Laughton  :  Memoirs  of  Henry  Reeve,  Vol.  I,  p.  5^. 


114    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1836- 

Galignani's  newspaper  for  ten  francs  a  day  very  cheer- 
fully," had  its  origin  in  the  fact  that  that  young  man 
had  "flung  up  his  fellow  and  tutorship  at  Cambridge 
in  order  to  marry  on  nothing  a  year."^  Some  sixteen 
years  later,  when  he  had  come  to  forty  years,  he  en- 
dorsed the  views  of  his  youth. 

I  married  with  ;^400  paid  by  a  newspaper,  which 
failed  six  months  afterwards,  and  always  love  to  hear 
of  a  young  fellow  testing  his  fortune  bravely  in  that 
way  [he  wrote  to  William  Webb  Follett  Synge].  .  .  . 
Though  my  marriage  was  a  wreck,  as  you  know, 
I  would  do  it  again,  for  behold.  Love  is  the  crown 
and  completion  of  all  earthly  good.  A  man  who  is 
afraid  of  his  fortune  never  deserved  one.^ 

The  young  couple  rented  apartments  in  the  Rue 
Neuve  St.  Augustin,  not  far  from  the  offices  of 
Galignani's  Messenger  in  the  Rue  Vivienne  :  half-way 
between  these  places  was  No.  16,  Rue  Neuve  des 
Petits  Champs  ("The  New  Street  of  the  Little  Fields"), 
occupied,  as  an  old  guide-book  gives  it,  by  Terre 
jeune,  Restaurateur  ;  house  noted  for  Spanish  dishes, 
and  for  good  wines,  and  more  especially  for  the 
Marseilles  dish,  "Bouillabaisse."  Here  the  newly 
married  pair  came  frequently  to  dine,  meeting  many 
friends  who  also  appreciated  the  cuisine.  Many  years 
after,  when  Terre  was  dead  and  Gillet  reigned  in  his 
stead,  Thackeray,  alone,  revisited  the  eating-house. 

Ah  me  !  how  quick  the  days  are  flitting ! 

I  mind  me  of  a  time  that's  gone, 
When  here  I'd  sit,  as  now  I'm  sitting, 

In  this  same  place — but  not  alone. 

^  A  Collection  of  Letters  of  W.  M.  Thackeray,  p,  36. 
?  Merivale  and  Marzials  :   Thackeray,  p.  240. 


1840]  MARRIAGE  115 

A  fair  young"  form  was  nestled  near  me, 
A  dear,  dear  face  looked  fondly  up. 

And  sweetly  spoke  and  smiled  to  cheer  me 
— There's  no  one  now  to  share  my  cup 


I  drink  it  as  the  Fates  ordain  it. 

Come,  fill  it,  and  have  done  with  rhymes  : 
Fill  up  the  lonely  glass,  and  drain  it 

In  memory  of  dear  old  times. 
Welcome  the  wine,  whate'er  the  seal  is  ; 

And  sit  you  down  and  say  your  grace 
With  thankful  heart,  whate'er  the  meal  is. 

— Here  comes  the  smoking  Bouillabaisse  !  ^ 

These  happy  days  at  Paris  did  not  last  long.  Thack- 
eray's first  letter  to  the  Constitutional  appeared  in  the 
issue  for  September  19,  1836,  and  neither  this  nor  his 
subsequent  contributions  to  the  journal  call  for  com- 
ment :  their  interest  was  purely  topical,  and  the  pre- 
dominant note,  as  readers  of  *'The  Paris  Sketch  Book" 
would  expect,  a  great  dislike  of  the  Government  of 
July.^  Like  the  National  Standard  the  Constitutional 
never  attracted  the  public,  and  little  good  resulted  from 
the  announcement  on  January  2,  1837,  that  Grote, 
Ewart,  Hume,  Roebuck,  Molesworth,  Buller,  and 
others  ''do  thereby  engage  to  take  in  such  newspaper 
for  a  twelvemonth  at  the  least,  and  we  recommend  it  to 
the  support  of  our  friends,  entertaining  similar  views  ; 
believing  that  such  a  newspaper  is  much  wanted  as  an 

^  The  Ballad  of  Bouillabaisse  {Punch,  February  17,  1849). 

^  Thackeray's  letters  to  the  Constitutional  were  collected  by  Mr. 
W.  T,  Spencer  and  published  in  1899  in  the  volume,  "  W.  M.  Thackeray 
in  the  National  Standard 'And  Constitutional."  They  were  included  by 
the  present  writer  in  Macmillan's  edition  of  the  Collected  Works,  Vol.  xi, 
"  The  Yellowplush  Papers,  etc,"  ;  1903. 


ii6    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1836- 

organ  of  Uncompromising  Liberal  Principles  and  that  it 
will  prove  extensively  useful  to  the  interests  of  Reform 
everywhere."  Thackeray's  last  letter  from  Paris  bears 
the  date  February  15,  1837  5  ^"*^  immediately  after  this 
was  despatched  he,  with  his  wife,  came  to  London  to 
attend  a  meeting  called  to  discuss  the  affairs  of  the 
Company  owning  the  paper,  already  in  a  very  unsatis- 
factory condition.  The  contributors  were  unpaid,  the 
correspondent  in  Portugal,  sent  out  to  report  on  the 
disturbances  there,  was  destitute,  and  wrote  letters 
begging  for  a  remittance  ;  and  Laman  Blanchard,  with 
a  wife  and  five  children  to  support,  though  writing 
articles  every  day,  had  not  been  paid  for  months. 
Thackeray,  of  course,  could  give  little  advice  as  to  how 
to  run  a  daily  paper  without  funds  and  deeply  in  debt ; 
but,  since  to  wind  up  the  company  spelt  ruin,  it  was 
decided  to  make  a  call  on  the  shareholders  of  £1  a  share, 
and  to  make  every  effort  to  increase  the  circulation.  On 
March  i,  the  paper,  which  had  been  increased  from  six 
to  seven  columns  on  each  of  its  four  pages,  was  reduced 
to  its  former  size  ;  but  it  dragged  on  an  unprofitable 
existence  until  July  i,  when  the  last  number  (249) 
appeared  with  a  black  border  for  the  death  of  the  King, 
and  an  announcement,  probably  written  by  Thackeray, 
explaining  the  cause  of  the  failure  of  the  paper. 

The  adverse  circumstances  have  been  various.  In 
the  philosophy  of  ill-luck  it  may  be  laid  down  as  a 
principle,  that  every  point  of  discouragement  tends  to 
one  common  centre  of  defeat.  When  the  fates  do 
concur  in  one's  discomfiture  their  unanimity  is  won- 
derful. So  it  has  happened  in  the  case  of  the  Consti- 
tutional. In  the  first  place  a  delay  of  some  months, 
consequent  upon  the  postponement  of  the  newspaper 


No.    l8,     AI.KION    SIkKKl,    HYDK    J'ARK 
ll'/nre  'I'hachfrny  nntf  his  iiu/c  stnyeii  with  Major  nuci  Mis.  Cai-itiichnct-Siiiyih  in  iS^f 


i84o]         No.  13,  GREAT   CORAM   STREET         117 

stamp  reduction,  operated  on  the  minds  of  many  who 
were  originally  parties  to  the  enterprise ;  in  the 
next,  the  majority  of  those  who  remained  faithful 
were  wholly  inexperienced  in  the  art  and  practical 
working  of  an  important  daily  journal ;  in  the  third, 
and  consequent  upon  the  other  two,  there  was  the 
want  of  those  abundant  means,  and  of  that  wise 
application  of  resources,  without  which  no  efficient 
organ  of  the  interests  of  any  class  of  men — to  say 
nothing  of  the  interests  of  the  first  and  greatest  class 
whose  welfare  has  been  our  dearest  aim  and  most 
constant  object — can  be  successfully  established. 
Then  came  further  misgivings  on  the  part  of  friends, 
and  the  delusive  undertakings  of  friends  in  disguise. 

So  the  Constitutional  went  down,  and  in  the  wreck 
was  lost  the  greater  part  of  the  fortune  of  Major  Car- 
michael-Smyth. 

When  Thackeray  and  his  wife  came  to  London,  they 
stayed  for  a  while  with  Major  and  Mrs.  Carmichael- 
Smyth  at  No.  18,  Albion  Street,  Hyde  Park ;  but  soon 
"work  was  abundant  and  the  future  promising"  enough 
to  allow  of  their  setting  up  their  home  at  No.  13,  Great 
Coram  Street,^  which  runs  from  Woburn  Place  to  Bruns- 
wick Square,  parallel  to  the  better  known  Guilford 
Street,  which  connects  Russell  Square  with  Gray's  Inn 
Road.  There  was  born  in  1838  the  Thackerays'  eldest 
daughter,  Anne  Isabella,  now  Lady  Ritchie,  but  still 
affectionately  remembered  as  Miss  Thackeray  of  the 
many  charming  stories  ;  and  later  another  child,  Jane 
who  died  in  infancy.  Readers  of  "The  Great  Hog- 
garty  Diamond  "  will  realise  how  deeply  this  loss  was 
felt. 

*  In  Great  Coram  Street  at  this  time  lived  also,  besides  John  Allen 
John  Leech  and  Charles  Keene. 


ii8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1836- 

Bloomsbury  had  even  then  an  old-world  air  and  with 
its  many  interesting  associations  made  a  deep  impres- 
sion upon  the  future  novelist,  who  again  and  again 
introduced  the  neighbourhood  into  his  stories.  Mr. 
and  Mrs.  Samuel  Hoggarty  lived  in  lodgings  in  Lamb's 
Conduit  Street,  where  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Brough  called  in 
their  splendid  carriage  and  pair  ;  and  it  was  in  Hart 
Street  that  little  George  Osborne  attended  the  school 
of  the  Rev.  Laurence  Veal,  domestic  chaplain  to  the 
Earl  of  Bareacres,  who  prepared  young  gentlemen 
and  noblemen  for  the  universities,  the  senate  and 
the  learned  professions  ;  whose  system  did  not  embrace 
the  degrading  corporal  severities  still  practised  at  the 
ancient  places  of  education,  and  in  whose  family  the 
pupils  found  the  elegancies  of  refined  society  and  the 
confidence  and  affection  of  a  home.  In  Great  Coram 
Street  itself  lived  Mr.  Todd,  the  junior  partner  in  the 
firm  of  Osborne  and  Todd.  Osborne  lived  in  Russell 
Square,  close  by  the  Sedleys,  on  account  of  whose 
daughter  he  disinherited  his  son  ;  but  it  was  easier  for 
the  old  man  to  turn  his  son  out  of  his  house  than  to 
remove  him  from  his  heart,  and  when  the  young  soldier 
died  upon  the  field  of  Waterloo  he  erected  a  monument 
on  the  wall  of  the  church  attached  to  the  Foundling 
Hospital. 

The  Foundling  Hospital,  a  stone's-throw  from  his 
house,  attracted  Thackeray,  always  susceptible  to  the 
pleasures  and  sufferings  of  children. 

There's  somethingf,  even  in  his  bitterest  mood, 
That  melts  him  at  the  sight  of  infanthood  ; 
Thank  God  that  he  can  love  the  pure  and  good. 


NO.    I^,    C.RKAT    I'ORAM    STKKK  I',    KKUNSWICK    SiJl'AKK 
117/rjr  Tliackcray  nil,/  /lis  n<i/c  lirrd  jSjj—lS^o 


i84o]  LOVE   OF   CHILDREN  119 

Thackeray's  love  for  children  was  one  of  his  most 
pleasing  characteristics.  When  James  T.  Fields,  the 
American  publisher,  was  one  day  mentioning  the  vari- 
ous sights  he  had  seen  in  London,  Thackeray,  who 
happened  to  overhear  him,  broke  in  with,  "But  you 
haven't  seen  the  greatest  one  yet.  Go  with  me  to-day  to 
St.  Paul's,  and  hear  the  charity  children  sing."  "So  we 
went,"  Fields  has  related,  "  and  I  saw  the  '  head  cynic 
of  literature,'  the  *  hater  of  humanity,'  as  a  critical  dunce 
in  the  Tiines  once  called  him,  hiding  his  bowed  head 
wet  with  tears,  while  his  whole  frame  shook  with 
emotion,  as  the  children  of  poverty  rose  to  pour  out 
their  anthem  of  praise.     Afterwards  he  wrote  about  it."^ 

There  is  one  day  in  the  year  .  .  .  when  I 
think  St.  Paul's  presents  the  noblest  sight  in  the 
whole  world  :  when  five  thousand  charity  children, 
with  cheeks  like  nosegays,  and  with  sweet,  fresh 
voices,  sing  the  hymn  which  makes  every  heart  thrill 
with  praise  and  happiness.  I  have  seen  a  hundred 
grand  sights  in  the  world — coronations,  Parisian 
splendours,  Crystal  Palace  openings,  Pope's  chapels 
with  their  processions  of  long-tailed  cardinals  and 
quavering  choirs  of  fat  soprani — but  think  in  all 
Christendom  there  is  no  such  sight  as  Charity  Chil- 
dren's Day.  Non  Angli^  sed  angeli.  As  one  looks 
at  that  beautiful  multitude  of  innocents  :  as  the  first 
note  strikes :  indeed  one  may  almost  fancy  that 
cherubs  are  singing.^ 

And  elsewhere  he  has  written  : 

To  see  a  hundred  boys  marshalled  in  a  chapel  or 
old  hall  ;  to  hear  their  sweet  fresh  voices  when  they 
chant,  and  look  in  their  brave  calm  faces:  I  say,  does 
not  the  sight  and  sound  of  them  smite  you,  somehow, 
with  a  pang  of  exquisite  kindness  ? 

'  The  Four  Georges — George  the  Third, 


I20    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1836- 

Thackeray  delighted  to  play  with  children,  to  draw 
caricatures  for  them,  and,  above  all,  delighted  to  take 
them  to  the  pantomime.  There  is  a  characteristic  tale 
told  of  him,  that  he  was  once  asked  by  Herman 
Merivale,  whom  as  a  boy  he  had  invited  to  dinner  at 
his  club,  if  he  remembered  the  occasion.  *'Oh,  yes," 
said  the  great  man,  ''and  I  remember  what  I  gave 
you.  Beefsteak  and  apricot  omelette."  The  other 
was  delighted  that  his  host  should  remember  even  the 
details,  and  expressed  his  pleasure.  "Yes,"  said 
Thackeray,  twinkling  in  his  inimitable  way,  *'  I  always 
give  boys  beefsteaks  and  apricot  omelettes." 

Near  Great  Coram  Street  was  the  British  Museum, 
and  in  the  library  Thackeray  might  often  have  been 
seen  at  work. 

Most  Londoners — not  all — have  seen  the  British 
Museum  Library.  I  speak  a  caeur  ouvert  and  pray 
the  kindly  reader  to  bear  with  me.  I  have  seen  all 
sorts  of  domes  of  Peters  and  Pauls,  Sophia,  Pan- 
theon,— what  not? — and  have  been  struck  by  none 
of  them  as  much  as  by  that  catholic  dome  in 
Bloomsbury,  under  which  our  million  volumes  are 
housed.  What  peace,  what  love,  what  truth,  what 
beauty,  what  happiness  for  all,  what  generous  kind- 
ness for  you  and  me,  are  here  spread  out !  It  seems 
to  me  one  cannot  sit  down  in  that  place  without  a 
heart  full  of  grateful  reverence.  I  own  to  have  said 
my  grace  at  the  table,  and  to  have  thanked  Heaven 
for  this  my  English  birthright,  freely  to  partake  of 
these  bountiful  books,  and  speak  the  truth  I  find 
there.^ 

Thackeray  appreciated  to  the  full  the  advantages  of 
the  well-conducted  library ;    and  when    Sir   Anthony 

1  Nil  Nisi  Bonum. 


i84o]  THE   BRITISH    MUSEUM  121 

Panizzi  asked  him  to  give  evidence  before  the  Select 
Committee  of  the  House  of  Commons,  which  was 
ordered  on  April  24,  i860,  "to  enquire  into  the 
necessity  for  the  extension  of  the  British  Museum," 
he  replied  that  he  would  gladly  come  and  say  on 
behalf  of  the  British  Museum  what  little  he  knew — 
how  he  once  came  from  Paris  to  London  to  write  an 
article  on  a  review  about  French  affairs,  and  how, 
wh^n  he  went  to  the  Bibliotheque  du  Roi,  he  could 
only  get  one  book  at  a  time,  and  no  sight  of  a  cata- 
logue. "But  then  I  didn't  go  often,"  he  added, 
*'  being  disgusted  with  the  place,  and  entering  it  as 
a  total  stranger,  without  any  recommendation."^ 

It  was  while  living  at  Great  Coram  Street  that 
Thackeray  indulged  a  morbid  desire  to  see  a  man 
hanged.  Years  before  at  Paris  he  had  gone  to  see  an 
execution,  but  by  some  mischance  had  missed  the 
dismal  spectacle.  He  was  invited  by  Monckton  Milnes 
"to  make  one  at  the  Hanging"  of  Courvoisier,  the 
murderer  of  Lord  William  Russell,  in  June  1840;  and 
he  accepted  with  some  show  of  eagerness.  It  was 
customary  then,  when  the  execution  took  place  at  five 
or  six  in  the  morning,  for  the  intending  spectators  to 
go  eastward  after  a  very  late  supper. 

You  must  not  think  me  inhospitable  in  refusing  to 
sit  up.  I  must  go  to  bed,  that's  the  fact,  or  I  never 
shall  be  able  to  attend  to  the  work  of  to-morrow 
properly.  If  you  like  to  come  here  and  have  a  sofa, 
it  is  at  your  service,  but  I  most  strongly  recommend 
sleep  as  a  preparation  for  the  day's  pleasure." 

^  Letter  to  Panizzi,  i860,  in  the  MSS.  Department  of  the  British 
Museum  Library. 

*  Wemyss  Reid  :  Life  of  Lord  Houghton,  Vol.  \,  p.  427. 


122    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1836- 

The  scene  made  a  deep  impression  on  him,  and  he 
wrote  of  it  with  deep  feeling  : 

There  is  some  talk  of  the  terror  which  the  sight  of 
this  spectacle  inspires.  ...  I  fully  confess  that  I 
came  away  down  Snow  Hill  that  morning  with  a 
disgust  for  murder,  but  it  was  for  the  murder  I  saw 
done  [he  wrote  after  witnessing  the  scene].  This  is 
the  20th  of  July,  and  I  may  be  permitted  for  my  part 
to  declare  that,  for  the  last  fourteen  days,  so  salutary 
has  the  impression  of  the  butchery  been  upon  me, 
I  have  had  the  man's  face  continually  before  my 
eyes  ;  that  I  can  see  Mr.  Ketch  at  this  moment,  with 
an  easy  air,  taking  the  rope  from  his  pocket ;  that 
I  feel  myself  ashamed  and  degraded  at  the  brutal 
curiosity  which  took  me  to  that  brutal  sight ;  and 
that  I  pray  to  Almighty  God  to  cause  this  disgrace- 
ful sin  to  pass  from  among  us,  and  to  cleanse  our 
land  of  blood. 

Later  at  Cairo,  when  invited  to  witness  a  similar 
spectacle,  *'  Seeing  one  man  hanged  is  quite  enough 
in  the  course  of  a  life,"  he  replied,  *'  ^jy  ai  ete^''  as 
the  Frenchman  said  of  hunting."  In  **The  Irish 
Sketch  Book "  he  repeated  the  sentiments  expressed 
in  the  Eraser  article. 

I  confess,  for  my  part,  to  that  common  cant  and 
sickly  sentimentality,  which,  thank  God  !  is  felt  by 
a  great  number  of  people  nowadays,  and  which  leads 
them  to  revolt  against  murder,  whether  performed 
by  a  ruffian's  knife  or  a  hangman's  rope  :  whether 
accompanied  by  a  curse  from  the  thief  as  he  blows 
his  victim's  brains  out,  or  a  prayer  from  my  lord  on 
the  bench  in  his  wig  and  black  cap.^ 

Nevertheless  he  eventually  changed  his  opinion,  and 
when   someone   praised  his    ''Hanging"   article,    "I 

^  Going  to  sec  a  Man  Hanged  (Fraser's  Magazine,  August  1840). 
^  The  Irish  Sketch  Book,  chap,  i. 


i\ 


i84o]  MRS.   THACKERAY  123 

think  I  was  wrong,"  he  remarked.  "  My  feelings  were 
overwrought.  These  murderers  are  such  devils,  after 
all."  But  though  he  ceased  to  advocate  the  abolition 
of  the  death-sentence,  he  never  refrained  from  insisting 
that  the  ceremony  should  be  performed  in  private. 

Thackeray's  marriage  was  very  happy,  but  unfortu- 
nately the  happiness  was  not  of  long  duration.  His 
third  daughter,  Harriet  Marion,  afterwards  Mrs.  Leslie 
Stephen,  was  born  on  May  28,  1840;  and  shortly  after 
he  went  to  Belgium  to  collect  material  for  a  Sketch- 
Book.^  Mrs.  Thackeray  had  almost  recovered  her  health 
when  he  left  her,  but  he  was  summoned  home  to  find  her 
*'in  a  strange  state  of  languor  and  mental  inactivity," 
which  he  at  first  regarded  as  a  not  unusual  sequence  of 
an  illness  that  would  pass  away  in  course  of  time.  He 
threw  aside  all  work,  sent  the  children  to  his  mother, 
and  took  his  wife  to  her  parents  in  Ireland.  Afterwards 
he  went  with  her  to  Paris,  where  for  a  while  she  was  in 
a  maison  de  sante ;  and  later,  hoping  against  hope  that 
the  cloud  on  her  intellect  would  dissolve,  for  many 
months  travelled  with  her  from  watering-place  to 
watering-place,  as  the  doctors  as  a  last  resource  had 
recommended.  At  last  Thackeray  was  compelled  to 
realise  that  his  wife  would  never  recover  sufficiently  to 
undertake  the  duties  of  a  mother  and  a  wife.  Though 
taking  interest  in  any  pleasant  things  around  her, 
especially  in  music,  she  was  unable  to  manage  her  life, 
and  since  it  was  essential  she  should  be  properly  cared 

^  The  Belgian  Sketch-Book  was  never  written,  but  Thackeray  used 
his  recollections  of  this  trip  in  "Little  Travels  and  Roadside  Sketches" 
(Fraser's  Magazine,  May  and  October  1844,  January  1845). 


124    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  C1836- 

for,  she  was  placed  with  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Thompson  at 
Leigh,  in  Essex.  She  outlived  her  husband  by  so  many 
years  that  it  was  with  a  shock,  since  she  had  already 
been  dead  to  the  world  for  nearly  forty  years,  that  the 
announcement  of  her  death  was  read.  She  was  buried 
at  Leigh,  not  in  the  graveyard  by  the  church,  but  in  a 
cemetery  farther  inland.  The  memorial  stone,  sur- 
mounted by  an  Irish  cross,  bears  the  following  in- 
scription : — 

To  the  Dear  Memory  of 

Isabella    Getkin    Thackeray. 

Born  1818,  Married  1836  to 

William  Makepeace  Thackeray. 

She  died  at  Leigh,  January  11,  1894,  aged  76. 

How  sad,  how  awful,  it  was  !  The  man  with  his 
great  heart,  with  his  yearning  for  love  and  affection 
that,  from  this  time  forth,  breathes  through  his  letters 
and  his  books.  To  be  separated  from  the  woman  he 
had  chosen  for  his  companion  through  life,  and  whose 
presence  had  cheered  him  when  his  fortunes  were  at 
their  lowest  ebb,  and  his  reputation  was  yet  to  make  ! 
How  hard  it  was  that  she  should  be  taken  from  him 
before  she  could  enjoy  the  great  fame  !  How  much 
he  loved  her,  and  how  deeply  he  felt  the  blow  that 
shattered  his  happiness  and  his  home,  he  never 
divulged.  He  was  not  a  man  to  parade  his  domestic 
sorrows  :  he  might  think  of  them  in  solitude,  but  if  a 
visitor  entered  he  would  force  himself  to  look  up  imme- 
diately with  a  smile  and  a  joke.  Once,  however,  he 
made  a  reference  in  a  book,  to  his  bereavement,  in 
a  note  prefixed  to  a  reprint  of  the  fragment  of  **A 
Shabby  Genteel  Story." 


i84o]  A   SAD    ENDING  125 

It  was  my  intention  to  complete  the  little  story  of 
which  only  the  first  part  is  here  written.  .  .  .  The 
tale  was  interrupted  at  a  sad  period  of  the  writer's 
own  life.  The  colours  are  long  since  dry ;  the 
artist's  hand  is  changed.  It  is  best  to  leave  the 
sketch  as  it  was  when  it  was  first  designed  seven- 
teen years  ago.  The  memory  of  the  past  is  re- 
newed as  he  looks  at  it 

*  *  Die  Bilder  froher  Tage 
Und  manche  liebe  Schatten  steigen  auf."  ^ 

"It  was  written,"  he  said,  writing  of  ''The  Great 
Hoggarty  Diamond,"  "at  a  time  of  great  affliction, 
when  my  heart  was  very  soft  and  humble.  Amen. 
Ich  hahe  auch  geliebty'^  "  I  was  as  happy  as  the  day 
was  long  with  her,"  he  told  a  cousin  after  he  had  re- 
turned alone,  and  worse  than  alone,  to  the  desolate 
house  in  Great  Coram  Street ;  and  one  day  when 
Trollope's  groom  said  to  him,  "I  hear  you  have 
written  a  book  upon  Ireland,  and  are  always  making 
fun  of  the  Irish.  You  don't  like  us,"  Thackeray's  eyes 
filled  with  tears  as  he  thought  of  his  wife — born  in 
County  Cork — and  he  replied,  turning  away  his  head, 
"  God  help  me  !  all  that  I  have  loved  best  in  the  world 
is  Irish." 

Well  might  Thackeray  echo  the  lines  of  poor  broken- 
hearted Thekla's  song  : 

* '  Ich  habe  genossen  das  irdische  Gliick, 
Ich  habe  gelebt  und  geliebet" 

Yet  even   in   his   bitterest    moments    he  did    not   cry, 
with  Thekla, 

"  Das  Hers  ist  gestorberiy  die  Welt  ist  leer^ 
Und  weiter  gibt  sie  dem  Wiinsche  nichts  mehr" 

^  Miscellanies^  Vol.  Ill,  1856.  The  quotation  is  from  the  Introduc- 
tion to  Faust.        ^  A  Collectio?i  of  Letters  of  IV.  M.  Thackeray,  p.  24. 


126    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1836- 

for  even  in  his  most  bitter  grief  he  remembered  his 
children  and  his  parents  ;  and  set  himself  resolutely 
to  work  to  make  money  so  that  when  his  children  were 
old  enough  he  could  provide  a  comfortable  home  for 
them,  dower  them  well,  and,  when  he  died,  leave  them, 
at  least,  a  competency. 

From  this  time,  more  than  ever,  the  thought  of  his 
children  was  the  mainspring  of  most  of  his  actions  ; 
and  whether  at  home  or  abroad,  the  "  little  girls  "  were 
always  in  his  thoughts. 

And  when,  its  force  expended, 
The  harmless  storm  was  ended, 
And  as  the  sunrise  splendid 

Came  blushing  o'er  the  sea  ; 
I  thought,  as  day  was  breaking, 
My  little  girls  were  waking. 
And  smiling,  and  making 

A  prayer  at  home  for  me.^ 

*'I  sat  up  with  the  children  and  talked  to  them  of 
their  mother,"  he  told  Mrs.  Brookfield.  "  It  is  my 
pleasure  to  tell  them  how  humble-minded  their  mother 
was."  He  took  them  to  the  Colosseum  on  their  birth- 
days ;  or  the  Zoological  Gardens,  where  they  amused 
themselves  in  finding  likenesses  to  their  friends  in 
many  of  the  animals  ("Thank  Evns  !"  is  Thackeray's 
expression  of  gratitude,  "  both  of  the  girls  have  plenty 
of  fun  and  humour  ") ;  or  went  with  them  to  the  play 
"  in  recompense  for  their  disappointment  in  not  getting 
to  the  opening  of  the  Great  Exhibition,  which  they 
had  hopes  of  seeing." 

Nothing  in  connection  with  the  Cornhill  Magazine 

*  From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo — The  White  Squall, 


i84o]  HIS   CHILDREN  127 

gave  Thackeray  so  much  pleasure  as  his  eldest 
daughter's  first  contribution,  ''Little  Scholars." 
"When  I  read  it,"  he  said  to  Fields,  '*I  blubbered 
like  a  child.  It  was  so  good,  so  simple,  and  so  honest ; 
and  my  little  girl  wrote  it,  every  word  of  it."  "  I 
assure  you  that  Annie  can  write  ten  times  more 
cleverly  than  I,"  he  declared  enthusiastically  to  Dean 
Hole ;  but  the  Dean  tacitly  declined  to  accept  the 
assurance.  When  a  friend  expressed  admiration  for 
"The  Story  of  Elizabeth",  "  I  am  glad,"  said  Thack- 
eray, "  but  I  can  form  no  opinion  of  its  merits 
as  I  have  not  read  it."  "Not  read  it,"  came  the 
echo.  "No,  I  dared  not,  I  love  her  too  much." 
When  the  Aihenceum  attacked  the  book,  Thackeray 
was  very  angry,  and  quarrelled  with  Jeaffreson, 
whom,  erroneously,  he  believed  to  have  written  the 
review.^ 

For  the  sake  of  his  children,  Thackeray  battled  with 
his  constitutional  timidity,  and  nerved  himself  to  deliver 
the  two  series  of  lectures — he,  to  whom  public  speaking 
was  misery  ;  and  solely  on  their  account  made  his  trips 
to  America,  hating  the  separation  from  them,  and 
longing  all  the  time  of  his  absence  for  the  day  of  his 
return. 

It  is  a  painful  subject  to  dwell  upon,  a  picture  of 
fearful  sadness,  this  dreadful  domestic  affliction.  His 
fortune  lost,  his  talents  unrecognised,  his  beloved  wife 
taken  from  him  !  Is  it  marvellous  that  Thackeray  was 
able  to  see  the  existence  of  evil  as  well  as  of  good  in  the 
world?  Yet  instead  of  embittering  him,  the  great 
sorrow  chastened  his  soul,  and  made  his  later  writings 

^  The  author  was  Geraldine  Jewsbury. 


128    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1840 

more  sympathetic  than  his  earlier  ;  and  the  only  use  he 
made  henceforth  of  his  great  gift  of  sarcasm  was  to 
protest  with  gentle  hand  against  the  follies  of  his 
fellows,  in  the  endeavour  to  indicate  the  path  of  hon- 
our, virtue,  goodness  and  mercy. 


CHAPTER   IX 

IN  GRUB  STREET   (1837-1846) 

Writes  for  the  Times — and  for  Fraser's  Magazine — his  earliest  contribu- 
tions to  Fraser's  Magazine — the  authorship  of  "  Elizabeth  Brown- 
rig-ge" — and  the  resemblance  between  that  story  and  "Catherine" — 
"  Fashnable  Fax  and  Polite  Annygoats" — Mr.  Yellovvplush's  other 
papers — strikes  for  higher  pay — his  qualifications  as  a  writer  for 
the  periodical  press — his  knowledge  of  art  and  foreig-n  lang-uages — 
sugg'ests  himself  for  the  editorship  of  the  Foreigyi  Quarterly  Review 
— and  as  a  contributor  to  Blackwood  s  Magazine — Sir  Henry  Cole's 
tribute  to  his  powers — the  Anti-Corn  Law  Circular — "  The  Pen 
and  the  Album " — writes  for  many  periodicals — contributions  to 
Fraser's  Magazine — "The  Paris  Sketch  Book" — "The  Second 
Funeral  of  Napoleon " — replies  to  the  Times'  criticism  of  that 
book — "Comic  Tales  and  Sketches" — "The  Irish  Sketch  Book" — 
stays  with  Charles  Lever  at  Templeogue — Thackeray  on  the  Irish 
— the  "  Life  of  Talleyrand" — "  Barry  Lyndon" — "  From  Cornhill  to 
Grand  Cairo  " — Carlyle  resents  Thackeray  accepting'  a  free  passage 
— Thackeray's  reply — "  Titmarsh  at  Jerusalem" — Thackeray's  re- 
ligion— his  indignation  with  Mrs.  Trollope's  interpretation  of  the 
Scriptures — his  dislike  of  the  Jews  and  the  Roman  Catholics — his 
attitude  towards  "Papal  Aggression" — his  attack  on  asceticism — 
his  doubts  of  the  infallibility  of  the  Bible — his  deep  sense  of  religion 
— his  fearless  outlook  on  death. 

IT  was  mentioned  in  the  last  chapter  that  when 
Thackeray  came  to  London  early  in   the   year 
1837    he  found  work  in   plenty :  it   is  now  ne- 
cessary to  go  back  to  that  time  to  see  what  he 
wrote  then,  and  where  he  published  what  he  wrote. 

Mrs.  Thackeray,  it  has    been  recorded,  used  laugh- 
ingly   to    say    she    laid   the   foundation-stone    of    her 

I.— K  129 


I30    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

husband's  fortune  by  introducing  him  to  her  relative, 
Thomas  Barnes,  the  editor  of  the  Times.  Barnes 
employed  Thackeray  as  a  reviewer,  and  the  young 
man's  first  identified  contribution,  a  review  of  Carlyle's 
"  French  Revolution,"  appeared  on  August  3,  1837. 
"I  understand  there  have  been  many  reviews  of  a 
mixed  character,"  the  historian  wrote  to  his  brother. 
''  I  got  one  in  the  Times  last  week.  The  writer  is  one 
Thackeray,  a  half-monstrous  Cornish  giant,  kind  of 
painter,  Cambridge  man,  and  Paris  newspaper  cor- 
respondent, who  is  now  writing  for  his  life  in  London. 
.  .  .  His  article  is  rather  like  him,  and,  I  suppose, 
calculated  to  do  the  book  good."  This  is  the  only 
article  in  the  Times  of  1837  placed  to  Thackeray's 
credit  by  the  bibliographers ;  but  as,  of  the  eleven 
contributions  known  to  be  his  in  the  following  year, 
six  (filling  ten  columns)  were  printed  in  one  month, 
the  natural  assumption  is  that  he  was  writing  regularly 
for  the  paper.  Besides  the  review  of  Carlyle's  book, 
the  only  other  identified  writings  of  Thackeray  in 
1837  are:  (i)  "The  Professor,"  a  tale,  in  Bentley's 
Magazine  for  September,  (ii)  "Fashnable  Fax  and 
Polite  Annygoats,"  and  (iii)  '*  A  Word  on  the  Annuals," 
in  the  November  and  December  numbers,  respectively, 
of  Fraser's  Magazine. 

The  mention  of  Eraser's  brings  us  face  to  face  with 
the  unsolved  question  that  is  the  stumbling-block  of 
the  biographers  and  the  bibliographers  of  Thackeray ; 
When  did  Thackeray  begin  to  contribute  to  this 
magazine,  in  which  appeared  the  best  of  his  early 
work?  The  subject  is  the  more  interesting  because, 
more  or  less  directly,  it  involves  the  question  of  the 


%»        .    ,^^    ♦^      //^  Cti^^-J 


m] 


1846]  ELIZABETH   BROWNRIGGE  131 

much -discussed  and  much  -  disputed  authorship  of 
*' Elizabeth  Brownrigge :  A  Tale,"  printed  in  this 
periodical  in  August  and  September,  1832. 

Dr.  John  Brown,  in  an  article  published  in  1864,  was 
the  first  person  to  attribute  to  Thackeray  this  parody  of 
"Eugene  Aram " ;  ^  and  then,  after  an  interval,  the 
same  opinion  was  expressed  by  Mr.  Swinburne  :  "Just 
before  '  Catherine '  appeared  another  burlesque  and 
grotesque  horror — *  Elizabeth  Brownrigge,'  a  story  in 
two  parts,  which  ought  to  be  Thackeray's,  for,  if  it  is 
not,  he  stole  the  idea,  and  to  some  extent  the  style,  of 
his  parodies  on  novels  of  criminal  life,  from  this  first 
sketch  of  the  kind."-  On  the  strength  of  the  belief  of 
these  eminent  critics,  Mr.  Shepherd  reprinted  the  satire 
in  a  collection  of  Thackeray's  minor  writings,  "Sultan 
Stork,"  and  included  it,  without  a  query-mark,  in  the 
bibliography  appended  to  that  volume.  A  few  years 
later  Mr.  C.  P.  Anderson  gave  it,  also  without  a  query- 
mark,  in  his  bibliography  of  Thackeray  ;2  and,  more 
recently,  Mr.  Charles  Whibley  has  expressed  his 
opinion  that  there  is  little  doubt  it  is  from  Thackeray's 
hand.^  In  opposition  to  this  view  are  Mr.  J.  P.  John- 
son, who  can  see  in  it  neither  the  touch  nor  the  manner 
of  Thackeray,^  and  Mr.  M.  H.  Spielmann,  who  is 
inclined  to  ascribe  it  to  Douglas  Jerrold  on  the  ground 
that  it  resembles  the  work  of  that  author  in  the  turns 
of  expression,  the  handling  of  sentences  and  the 
peculiarities  of  dialogue.''    Certainly  Jerrold,  who  had 

^  North  British  Review. 

*  Letter  to  Richard  Heme  Shepherd,  printed  in  Sultan  Stork,  p.  vii. 
^  Appended  to  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  1891. 

*  William  Makepeace  Thackeray  {Modern  English  Writers),  p.  28. 
^  Early  Writings  of  William  Makepeace  Thackeray. 

®  Bookman,  April  1901.    A  Review  of  "  Thackeray's  Stray  Papers." 


132    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

written  the  ^'Brownrigg  Papers"  in  the  Weekly  Times, 
had,  not  long  before  the  appearance  of  "Elizabeth 
Brownrigge,"  issued  a  similar  parody,  entitled  "The 
Tutor  Fiend  and  His  Three  Pupils." 

The  present  writer,  in  a  work  published  ten  years 
ago,  stated  his  belief  that  Thackeray  wrote  "Elizabeth 
Brownrigge"  (although  when  reprinting  it  in  "Thack- 
eray's Stray  Papers  "  he  was  careful  to  note  that  the 
authorship  was  doubtful).  "  The  satirical  *  Dedication 
to  the  Author  of  "  Eugene  Aram  "  '  and  the  'Advertise- 
ment '  seem  to  be  quite  in  Thackeray's  style,"  he  wrote 
then.  "  Indeed,  the  whole  story  seems  an  immature 
'Catherine.'"  This  opinion  was,  of  course,  arrived  at 
by  a  consideration  of  internal  evidence,  which  is  cer- 
tainly strong,  as  the  following  extract  from  the  "  Dedi- 
cation "  shows : — 

From  the  frequent  perusal  of  older  works  of  imagina- 
tion, I  had  learned  so  to  weave  the  incidents  of  my 
story  as  to  interest  the  feelings  of  the  reader  in 
favour  of  virtue,  and  to  increase  his  detestation  of 
vice.  I  have  been  taught  by  "Eugene  Aram" 
to  mix  vice  and  virtue  up  together  in  such  an  in- 
extricable confusion  as  to  render  it  impossible 
that  any  preference  should  be  given  to  either,  or 
that  the  one,  indeed,  should  be  at  all  distinguish- 
able from  the  other.  ...  I  am  inclined  to  regard 
you  as  an  original  discoverer  in  the  world  of  literary 
enterprise,  and  to  reverence  you  as  the  father  of 
a  new  ^^ liisiis  naturce  school."  There  is  no  other 
title  by  which  your  manner  could  be  so  aptly 
designated.  I  am  told,  for  instance,  that  in  a  former 
work,  having  to  paint  an  adulterer,  you  described 
him  as  belonging  to  the  class  of  country  curates, 
among  whom,  perhaps,  such  a  criminal  is  not  met 
with  once  in  a  hundred  years;  while,  on  the  contrary, 
being  in  search  of  a  tender-hearted,  generous,  senti- 


1846]  DISPUTED   AUTHORSHIP  133 

mental,  high-minded  hero  of  romance,  you  turned  to 
the  pages  of  the  "Newgate  Calendar,"  and  looked 
for  him  in  the  list  of  men  who  have  cut  throats  for 
money,  among  whom  a  person  in  possession  of  such 
qualities  could  never  have  been  met  at  all.  Want- 
ing a  shrewd,  selfish,  worldly,  calculating  valet, 
you  describe  him  as  an  old  soldier,  though  he  bears 
not  a  single  trait  of  the  character  which  might  have 
been  moulded  by  a  long  course  of  military  service, 
but,  on  the  contrary,  is  marked  by  all  the  dis- 
tinguishing features  of  a  bankrupt  attorney,  or  a 
lame  duck  from  the  Stock  Exchange.  Having  to 
paint  a  cat,  you  endow  her  with  all  the  idiosyn- 
crasies of  a  dog. 

In  spite  of  the  Titmarshian  flavour  of  this  and  other 
passages,  the  present  writer  has,  however,  abandoned 
the  theory  that  Thackeray  was  the  author  of  "Eliza- 
beth Brownrigge."  It  has  been  said  that  the  tale 
appeared  in  Eraser's  Magazine  in  August  and  Septem- 
ber, 1832  :  that  is  to  say,  it  must  at  latest  have  been 
written  in  July  of  that  year — in  which  month  Thackeray 
went  to  Paris,  immediately  after  he  came  of  age.  It  is 
not  to  be  denied  that  if  Thackeray  did  write  this,  he 
had  special  facilities  for  bringing  it  to  the  notice  of  the 
editor  of  the  periodical  in  which  it  appeared,  for  he  was 
on  intimate  terms  with  the  editor  in  question,  William 
Maginn;  but,  on  the  other  hand,  if  he  did  write  "Eliza- 
beth Brownrigge"  in  July  1832,  how  is  it  that  he  did 
not  follow  up  this  ambitious  start?  It  is  true  that 
several  articles  in  subsequent  numbers  of  the  magazine 
are  possibly  by  him,  and  a  set  of  verses  in  May  1834 
are  known  to  be  from  his  pen  :  but  not  even  Mr.  C.  P. 
Johnson,  the  most  indefatigable  of  bibliographers,  puts 
forward  anything  of  equal  merit  until  "  Fashnable  Fax 


134    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

and  Polite  Annygoats"  five  years  later.  Indeed,  when 
'*  Elizabeth  Brownrigge  "  appeared,  Thackeray  had,  so 
far  as  is  known,  written  nothing  but  the  trifles  for  the 
Snob  and  the  Gow?isma?iy  and,  after  it  appeared,  nothing 
of  any  importance  until  1837  5  ^^  ^s  scarcely  conceivable 
that  Thackeray  should  have  written  this  clever  satirical 
story,  and  then  have  fallen  to  the  low  level  of  his  contri- 
butions to  the  National  Standard.  ''  Elizabeth  Brown- 
rigge "  must  not,  therefore,  figure  among  Thackeray's 
works. 

Though  Thackeray  may  not  have  written  "  Elizabeth 
Brownrigge,"  it  is  practically  certain  that  he  con- 
tributed frequently  to  Eraser's  Magazine  in  and  after 
1834.  Merely  on  the  strength  of  the  translation  of 
Beranger's  "//  etait  un  roi  d'Yvetot,''  which  appeared 
in  May  of  that  year,  it  is  highly  improbable  that  even 
a  friendly  editor  would  have  ventured  in  1837  ^o 
commission  the  *' Yellowplush  Correspondence" — for 
from  the  heading,  **The  Yellowplush  Correspond- 
ence— Fashnable  Fax  and  Polite  Annygoats,"  it  is 
clear  that  there  was  to  be  a  series  of  articles  by 
Charles  Yellowplush,  and,  we  know  from  a  notebook 
of  Thackeray,  that  these  were  written,  as  all  his 
work  was  then  and  after,  from  hand  to  mouth. 
There  is  further  proof  that  Thackeray  was  a  contributor 
in  the  frontispiece  of  the  magazine  for  January  1835, 
a  picture  by  Maclise  showing  the  principal  writers  for 
the  periodical  dining  at  the  house  of  the  proprietor  : 
Crofton  Croker,  Lockhart,  Hook,  Brewster,  Moir, 
D'Orsay,  Allan  Cunningham,  Carlyle,  Brydges,  Gleig, 
Mahony,  Irving,  ''Barry  Cornwall,"  Southey,  Percival 
Bankes,    Churchill,    Murphy,     Macwish,     Ainsworth, 


1846]  ERASER'S  MAGAZINE  135 

Coleridge,    Hogg,    Gait,    Dunlop,    Jerdan,    and,    four 
seats  from  Maginn,  our  Mr.  Titmarsh. 

What  Thackeray  wrote  for  Eraser's  Magazine  before 
November  1837  none  now  can  say.  He  may  have  con- 
tributed the  reviews  of  Whitehead's  "Lives  and  Exploits 
of  English  Highwaymen  "  (March  1834),  of  "  -^  Dozen 
Novels"  including  Miss  Edgeworth's  "Helen"  (April 
1834),  of  Ainsworth's  "  Rookwood "  (June  1834,  ^"d 
again  on  the  appearance  of  the  third  edition,  April 
1836),  Mrs.  Trollope's  "  Paris  and  the  Parisian  "  (Feb- 
ruary 1836)  ;  and  the  "  Letters  from  Cambridge  about 
the  Art  of  Plucking"  (June,  July,  August,  1836).  "The 
Jew  of  York"  (September  1836),  and  the  reviews  of 
James   Grant's    "The   Great    Metropolis"    (December 

1836)  and   of  Landor's   "Satire  on    Satirists"   (April 

1837)  ni3.y  be  from  his  pen,  as  well  as  many  other 
articles.  It  is  sufficient,  however,  to  assume  that  he 
contributed  to  the  periodical,  and  that  he  scored  his 
first  great  success  with  a  review  of  "  My  Book,  or,  The 
Anatomy  of  Conduct,"  by  one  John  Henry  Sketton,  a 
half-demented  West-end  linen-draper,  who  had  con- 
ceived the  idea  that  it  was  his  mission  in  life  to  instruct 
the  world  in  the  true  art  of  etiquette.  This  review,  as 
all  the  world  knows,  was  the  famous  "  Fashnable  Fax 
and  Polite  Annygoats,"  the  first  paper  written  by  Mr. 
Charles  Yellowplush,  who  dated  his  contribution  from 
"No. — Grosvenor  Square,  loth  October,  (N.B.  Hairy 
Bell)."  To  this,  which  appeared  in  Eraser's  Magazine 
for  November  1837,  was  appended  a  note,  written  by 
Thackeray,  but  initialled  O.Y.  ("Oliver  Yorke,"  i.e., 
William  Maginn),  unaccountably  omitted  from  most 
reprints : — 


136    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

He  who  looketh  from  a  tower  sees  more  of  the 
battle  than  the  knights  and  captains  engaged  in  it  ; 
and,  in  like  manner,  he  who  stands  behind  a  fashion- 
able table  knows  more  of  society  than  the  guests  who 
sit  at  the  board.  It  is  from  this  source  that  our  great 
novel-writers  have  drawn  their  experience,  retailing 
the  truths  which  they  learned.  It  is  not  impossible 
that  Mr.  Yellowplush  may  continue  his  communica- 
tions, when  we  shall  be  able  to  present  the  reader 
with  the  only  autheritic  picture  of  fashionable  life  which 
has  been  given  to  the  world  in  our  time. 

Mr.  Yellowplush  did  continue  his  communications  : 
in  January  came  "  Miss  Shum's  husband"  ;  from  Feb- 
ruary to  July  (with  the  exception  of  April)  were  narrated 
the  adventures  of  Mr.  Deuceace  ;  and  in  August  the 
erudite  footman  made  his  "  Ajew,"  reappearing  on  the 
scene  after  an  interval  of  more  than  two  years  to  criticise 
Bulwer's  play,  "The  Sea-Captain."  From  the  start  the 
"Correspondence"  attracted  so  much  attention,  that, 
after  three  instalments  had  been  printed,  the  author, 
who  realised  the  value  of  the  papers  to  the  magazine, 
felt  justified  in  demanding,  at  the  point  of  the  sword, 
as  it  were,  higher  remuneration  for  subsequent  contri- 
butions. 

Now  comes  another,  and  not  a  very  pleasant  point, 
on  which  I  must  speak  [he  wrote  to  James  Eraser, 
the  proprietor,  in  February  1838,  from  Boulogne]. 
I  hereby  give  notice  that  I  shall  strike  for  wages. 

You  pay  more  to  others,  I  find,  than  to  me  ;  and  so 
I  intend  to  make  some  fresh  conditions  about  Yellow- 
plush. I  shall  write  no  more  of  that  gentleman's 
remarks  except  at  the  rate  of  twelve  guineas  a  sheet, 
and  with  a  drawing  for  each  number  in  which  his 
story  appears — the  drawing  two  guineas. 

Pray  do  not  be  angry  at  this  decision  on  my  part ; 
it  is  simply  a  bargain,  which  it  is  my  duty  to  make. 


1846]  STRIKES    FOR   WAGES  137 

Bad  as  he  is,  Mr.  Yellowplush  is  the  most  popular 
contributor  to  your  magazine,  and  ought  to  be  paid 
accordingly  :  if  he  does  not  deserve  more  than  the 
monthly  nurse,  or  the  Blue  Friars,  I  am  a  Dutch- 
man. 

I  have  been  at  work  upon  his  adventures  to-day, 
and  I  will  send  them  to  you  or  not  as  you  like,  but  in 
common  regard  for  myself  I  won't  work  under 
price. 

Well,  I  daresay  you  will  be  very  indignant,  and 
swear  I  am  the  most  mercenary  of  individuals.  Not 
so.  But  I  am  a  better  workman  than  most  in  your 
crew  and  deserve  a  better  price. 

You  must  not,  I  repeat,  be  angry,  or  because  we 
differ  as  tradesmen  break  off  a  connection  as  friends. 
Believe  me  that,  whether  I  write  for  you  or  not,  I 
always  shall  be  glad  of  your  friendship  and  anxious 
to  have  your  good  opinion.^ 

The  sentence,  "  I  am  a  better  workman  than  most  in 
your  crew,"  shows  very  clearly  that  Thackeray  was  under 
no  misapprehension  as  to  the  value  of  his  support  to 
Regina,  as  members  of  the  staff  were  pleased  to  call  the 
magazine  ;  and,  if  further  proof  is  wanted,  it  shows  that 
he  must  have  been  a  frequent  contributor  for  some  time 
past,  since  he  would  scarcely  have  ventured,  even  on 
the  strength  of  three  instalments  of  the  ''Yellowplush 
Papers,"  to  take  up  an  attitude  so  independent.  Per- 
haps after  some  discussion,  which  would  account  for 
the  absence  of  Mr.  Yellowplush  in  March,  the  matter 
at  issue  was  adjusted,  with  the  result  that  Thackeray 
was  a  frequent  contributor  to  the  magazine  for  the  next 
nine  years. 

Thackeray's  connection  with  Eraser's  Magazine  was 
invaluable  to  him  in  the  early  days  of  his  struggle  for 

1  Bookmart  (Pittsburg,  Pa.),  April  18S7  ;  Vol.  IV,  p.  446. 


138    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

bread,  since  he  could  rely  on  it  to  provide  him  with  a 
certain,  if  small,  income ;  and  if  this  periodical  was 
useful  to  him,  there  is  also  no  question  that  he 
rendered  it  yeoman's  service.  He  had  even  at  this 
time  qualifications  eminently  calculated  to  attract 
editors :  a  pleasant,  gossipy  style,  a  practical  ex- 
perience with  the  pencil  and  the  brush  that  enabled 
him  to  write  with  understanding  on  art,  and  an 
acquaintance  with  foreign  countries  and  their  litera- 
tures, rare  in  a  writer  for  the  magazines,  in  a  day 
when  travel  was  expensive.  Indeed,  there  were  not 
many  men  who  could  have  volunteered  to  review 
French  and  German  books,  as  Thackeray  did  when 
Thomas  Longman,  the  proprietor  of  the  Edinburgh 
Review,  approached  him  as  a  possible  contributor. 

I  hardly  know  what  subject  to  point  out  as  suited 
to  my  capacity — light  matter  connected  with  art, 
humorous  reviews,  critiques  of  novels — French  sub- 
jects, memoirs,  poetry,  history  from  Louis  XV  down- 
ward and  of  an  earlier  period — that  of  Froissart  and 
Monstrelet — German  light  literature  and  poetry — 
though  of  these  I  know  but  little  beyond  what  I 
learned  in  a  year's  residence  in  the  country  fourteen 
years  ago.^ 

It  was  this  first-hand  knowledge  of  the  Continent 
that  emboldened  Thackeray  in  1842,  on  the  eve  of  his 
departure  for  Ireland  to  write  a  Sketch-Book  for 
Messrs.  Chapman  and  Hall,  to  ask  that  firm  for  the 
editorship  of  the  Foreign  Quarterly  Review,  which 
they  had  just  taken  over. 

If  you  have  a  new  editor,  as  you  will,  no  doubt, 
and  unless  you  have  a  great  man  like  Mr.  Carlyle 

^  Letter  in  the  British  Museum  Library. 


r846]   JOURNALISTIC   QUALIFICATIONS  139 

at  the  head  of  your  undertaking,  please  to  think  of 
your  humble  servant,  who  is  very  anxious  to  have 
a  calling  and  regular  occupation  of  some  kind,  and 
could  really,  I  think,  do  your  duty  very  well  [he 
wrote  to  Messrs.  Chapman  and  Hall].  I  know  a 
couple  of  languages,  French  and  German,  and  could 
know  Italian  in  another  month,  having  already  a 
smattering ;  and  if  your  intention  is  not  to  have 
a  pompous  review,  but  a  smart  and  lively  one,  I 
believe  I  should  make  as  good  an  editor  as  another. 
...  I  need  not  tell  you  that  I'm  not  so  wedded  to 
the  Irish  trip  but  that  I  would  forego  it  for  some- 
thing more  lasting,  or  for  a  turn,  say  in  Germany,  as 
ambassador  of  the  Foreign  Quarterly?- 

The  application  was  unsuccessful,  for  John  Forster 
secured  the  post,  but  a  perusal  of  Thackeray's  contri- 
butions to  the  review  show  that  here,  too,  his  support 
was  valuable.^ 

It  was  the  accomplishments  just  enumerated  that 
distinguished  their  possessor  from  the  hack  writers  of 
the  day,  and  were  of  great  service  to  him  at  the 
beginning  of  his  career ;  though,  once  he  had  ob- 
tained a  footing,  his  success  was  mainly  due  to  the  fact 
that  he  showed  himself  a  master  of  the  art  of  writing 
'*on  subjects  relating  to  society  in  general,  where  a 
writer  may  be  allowed  to  display  the  humorous  egOy 
or  a  victim  to  be  gently  immolated."^ 

This  was  the  sort  of  paper  he  preferred  to  compose, 
and  he  sought  an  opening  in  BlackwoocTs  Magazine. 

Some  years  back  you  used  to  have  pleasant  papers 
in    Blackwood    called    "The    World    we    live    in" 

^  Bookmart,  November  1885,  Vol.  Ill,  p.  146. 

"^  These  articles  were  recently  discovered  by  Mr.   Robert  S.  Garnett, 
who  published  them  in  1906  under  the  title  of  "  The  New  Sketch  Book." 
^  Letter  to  Thomas  Longman  in  the  British  Museum  Library. 


140    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

[Thackeray  wrote  to  Alexander  Blackwood  in  1840]. 
I  should  be  glad  to  do  something  of  like  nature  if 
you  are  disposed  to  accept  my  contributions.  No 
politics,  as  much  fun  and  satire  as  I  can  muster, 
literary  talk  and  criticism  of  a  spicy  nature,  and 
general  gossip.  I  belong  to  a  couple  of  clubs  in 
this  village  and  can  get  together  plenty  of  rambling 
stuff.  For  instance,  for  next  month  Courvoisier's 
hanging  (I'll  go  on  purpose),  strictures  on  C.  Phil- 
lip's speech,  the  London  Library,  Tom  Carlyle,  the 
Times ^  and  account  of  Willis  that  may  be  racy 
enough.  If  the  project  smiles  upon  you,  as  the 
French  say,  please  write  me  word.  I  can't  afford  to 
begin  and  send  the  MSS.  in  advance,  for  if  you 
shouldn't  approve  the  design  my  labour  would  be 
wasted,  as  the  article  would  be  written  for  your 
special  readers,  and  no  good  next  month. ^ 

Blackwood  would  not  have  these  papers  ;  and  after 
"  Maga,"  a  little  later,  declined  ''The  Great  Hoggarty 
Diamond  "  Thackeray  wooed  it  no  more. 

The  young  writer  had  a  warm  friend  and  eulogist  in 
Mr.  (after  Sir  Henry)  Cole,  who  introduced  him  to 
Cobden  for  service  in  the  Anti-Corn  Law  Circular. 
'*  The  artist  is  a  genius  both  with  his  pen  and  his 
pencil,"  Cole  wrote  with  enthusiasm.  "His  vocation 
is  literary.  He  is  full  of  humour  and  feeling. 
Hitherto  he  has  not  had  occasion  to  think  much  on 
the  subject  of  Corn  Laws,  and  therefore  wants  the 
stuff  to  work  upon.  He  would  like  to  combine  both 
writing  and  drawing  when  sufficiently  primed,  and 
then  he  would  write  illustrated  ballads,  or  tales,  or  any- 
thing. I  think  you  would  find  him  a  useful  auxiliary."- 
Thackeray  without  delay  followed  up  this  introduction. 

^  Mrs.  Oliphant :    William  Blackwood  and  Sons,  Vol.  II,  p.  240. 
^  Sir  Henry  Cole  :  Fifty  Years  of  Public  Work. 


1846]  MISCELLANEOUS   WRITINGS  141 

I  shall  be  glad  [he  wrote  to  Cobden,  for  whom  he 
eventually  drew  two  sketches]  to  do  a  single  draw- 
ing, series,  or  what  you  will,  for  nioney^  but  I  think 
the  one  you  sent  me  would  not  be  effective  enough 
for  the  Circular^  the  figures  are  too  many  for  so  small 
a  sized  block,  and  the  meaning  mysterious — the 
river,  to  be  a  river,  should  occupy  a  deuce  of  a  space 
[here  he  introduced  a  loose  sketch] — even  this  fills 
up  your  length  almost.  What  do  you  think  of 
a  howling  group  with  this  motto  :  Give  us  this  day 
our  Daily  Bread?  The  words  are  startling.  Of 
course  I  will  do  the  proposed  design  if  you  wish. 

Though  it  was  to  Eraser's  Magazine  Thackeray  in 
these  early  years  contributed  most  largely,  he  supplied 
drawings,  stories,  reviews,  burlesques,  and  art  criti- 
cism to  all  quarters  where  they  were  acceptable. 

Since  he  my  faithful  service  did  engage, 
To  follow  him  through  his  queer  pilgrimage, 
I've  drawn  and  written  many  a  line  and  page. 

Caricatures  I  scribbled  have,  and  rhymes, 
And  dinner-cards,  and  picture-pantomimes, 
And  many  little  children's  books  at  times. 

I've  writ  the  foolish  fancy  of  his  brain  ; 

The  aimless  jest  that,  striking,  hath  caused  pain  ; 

The  idle  word  that  he'd  wish  back  again. 

I've  helped  him  to  pen  many  a  line  for  bread. ^ 

Thackeray  contributed  to  those  short-lived  periodi- 
cals, the  Torch,  the  Parthenon,  and  the  Britannia,  and 
also,  it  is  said,  to  the  Globe ;  he  wrote  on  *'  Paris  Cari- 
catures "  and  on  George  Cruikshank's  work  for  the 
Westminster  Review^  on  French  and  German  literature 

^   The  Pen  and  the  Album. 


142    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

for  the  Foreign  Quarterly,  and  on  art  for  the  Pictorial 
Times ;  he  drew  political  cartoons  for  the  Anti-Corn 
Law  Circular,  and  discoursed  on  French  manners  and 
customs  in  the  Britannia  and  the  Corsair  (New  York) ; 
to  Bentley's  Magazine  he  sent  ''The  Professor";  to 
Ainsmorth^s  Magazine,  "Sultan  Stork";  to  the  New 
Monthly  Magazi7ie,  "  Mary  Ancel  ",  "  Major  Gahagan  " 
and  '*  The  Bedford  Row  Conspiracy  "  ;  to  Cruikshank's 
Almanacks,  "  Stubbs's  Calendar"  and  ''Barber 
Cox";  and  to  the  Omnibus,  "The  King  of  Brent- 
ford's Testament."  With  the  exception  of  "Major 
Gahagan,"  however,  his  best  work  went  to  Eraser's 
Magazine,  where,  after  the  "  Yellowplush  Corre- 
spondence," appeared,  besides  many  articles,  "Cathe- 
rine" in  1839,  "A  Shabby  Genteel  Story"  in  1840, 
"The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond  "  in  1841,  the  "  Fitz- 
Boodle  Papers  "  in  1842,  "  Men's  Wives"  in  1843,  and 
"  Barry  Lyndon  "  in  the  following  year. 

The  publication  of  the  "Yellowplush  Correspon- 
dence "  in  Eraser's  Magazine  marks  an  epoch  in 
Thackeray's  literary  life,  because  thereafter  he  was 
regarded  as  one  of  the  best  writers  for  the  periodicals. 
Such  attention  as  it  attracted  in  England,  however, 
was  as  nothing  to  the  success  it  achieved  in  America, 
where  it  was  pirated  before  it  had  run  its  course,  and 
appeared  in  book-form  without  the  "  Ajew." 

The  success  of  the  "Correspondence"  inspired 
Thackeray  with  the  desire  to  offer  some  of  his  wares 
in  book-form,^  and  in  1840  he  induced  John  Macrone, 
who  four  years  earlier  had  brought  out  "Sketches  by 

'  The  article  on  Criiikshank,  signed  "  ^,"  in  the  Westminster  Review 
for  June  1S40  was  at  once  issued  in  book-form  anonymously. 


i846]  FIRST   BOOKS  143 

Boz,"  to  publish  a  collection  of  articles  and  tales, 
more  than  half  of  which  had  appeared  in  the  magazines, 
under  the  happy  title  of  ''The  Paris  Sketch  Book. 
By  Mr.  Titmarsh."  The  venture  met  with  no  par- 
ticular success,  but  its  failure  was  not  so  complete  as 
to  deter  Hugh  Cunningham,  Macrone's  successor, 
from  publishing  'Mn  decent  duodecimo"  early  in  the 
next  year,  ''The  Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon,"  with 
which  was  included  "The  Chronicle  of  the  Drum," 
which  the  periodicals  had  refused  to  print.  Thackeray 
had  gone  to  Paris  with  Monckton  Milnes  in  December 
1840  to  witness  the  ceremonies  in  connection  with 
the  interment  of  the  remains  of  Napoleon,  brought 
from  St.  Helena  to  rest  in  the  Hotel  des  Invalides. 
The  little  book  was  practically  still-born.  With 
characteristic  humour,  the  author  wrote  that  his  future 
was  assured,  since  he  received  yhd.  royalty,  and  if 
seven  hundred  and  fifty  thousand  copies  were  disposed 
of,  he  would  net  no  less  than  ;^3,i25.  "One  hundred 
copies  have  already  been  sold,"  he  added,  "so  that 
you  see  my  fortune  is  very  clear."  Eventually  the 
sales  rose  to  one  hundred  and  forty  and  no  more. 
Possibly  an  article  in  the  Times  may  account  for  this : 
Thackeray  thought  the  affair  of  the  Second  Funeral 
humbug,  and  said  so,  which  brought  the  reviewer 
down  on  him. 

Disbelief  in  heroes  is  very  offensive  to  the  world, 
it  must  be  confessed  (Thackeray  replied  to  the  attack, 
in  the  bantering  manner  he  affected  towards  adverse 
criticism).  There,  now,  is  the  Times  newspaper, 
which  the  other  day  rated  your  humble  servant  for 
publishing  an  account  of  one  of  the  great  humbugs 
of  modern  days,  viz.^  the  late  funeral  of  Napoleon — 


144    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

which  rated  me,  I  say,  and  talked  in  its  own  grave, 
roaring  way,  about  the  flippancy  and  conceit  of 
Titmarsh. 

O,  you  thundering  old  Times!  Napoleon's  funeral 
was  a  humbug,  and  your  constant  reader  said  so. 
The  people  engaged  in  it  were  humbugs,  and  this 
your  Michael  Angelo  hinted  at.  There  may  be 
irreverence  in  this,  and  the  process  of  humbug- 
hunting  may  end  rather  awkwardly  for  some  people. 
But  surely  there  is  no  conceit.  The  shamming  of 
modesty  is  the  most  pert  conceit  of  all,  the  pre- 
cieiise  affectation  of  deference  where  you  don't  feel 
it,  the  sneaking  acquiescence  in  lies.  It  is  very 
hard  that  a  man  may  not  tell  the  truth  as  he  fancies 
it,  without  being  accused  of  conceit :  but  so  the 
world  wags.  As  has  already  been  prettily  shown 
in  that  before-mentioned  little  book  about  Napo- 
leon, that  is  still  to  be  had  of  the  publisher's, 
there  is  a  ballad  in  the  volume  which,  if  properly 
studied,  will  be  alone  worth  two-and-sixpence  to 
any  man. 

Well,  the  funeral  of  Napoleon  was  a  humbug  ; 
and  being  so,  what  was  a  man  to  call  it?  What  do 
we  call  a  rose?  Is  it  disrespectful  to  the  pretty  flower 
to  call  it  by  its  own  innocent  name?  And,  in  like 
manner,  are  we  bound,  out  of  respect  for  society, 
to  speak  of  humbug  only  in  a  circumlocutory  way — 
to  call  it  something  else,  as  they  say  some  Indian 
people  do  their  devil — to  wrap  it  up  in  riddles  and 
charades  ?  .  .  .  Sacred  word  !  it  is  kept  out  of  the 
dictionaries,  as  if  the  great  compilers  of  these  pub- 
lications were  afraid  to  utter  it.  Well  then,  the 
funeral  of  Napoleon  was  a  humbug,  as  Titmarsh 
wrote  ;  and  a  still  better  proof  that  it  was  a  humbug 
was  this,  that  nobody  bought  Titmarsh's  book,  and 
of  the  10,000  copies  made  ready  by  the  publisher  not 
above  3000  went  off.  It  was  a  humbug,  and  an  ex- 
ploded humbug.  Peace  be  to  it !  Parlous  d^autres 
choses,^ 

^   On  Men  and  Pictures  {Fraser  s  Magazine,  July  1841). 


i846]  "THE   SECOND    FUNERAL"  145 

The  failure  of  *'The  Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon" 
deterred  Cunningham  from  issuing  a  book  by  the  same 
author,  announced  at  the  end  of  the  other,  as  **  Pre- 
paring for  Immediate  Publication":  ''Dinner  Remi- 
niscences, or,  The  Young  Gormandizer's  Guide  at 
Paris.  By  Mr.  M.  A.  Titmarsh,"  whereupon  Thackeray, 
too,  abandoned  the  idea,  and  used  the  material  he  had 
collected  in  a  paper,  "The  Memorials  of  Gorman- 
dizing."^ Cunningham,  however,  still  had  enough  belief 
in  Thackeray  to  issue,  also  in  1841,  "Comic  Tales 
and  Sketches.  Edited  and  illustrated  by  Mr.  Michael 
Angelo  Titmarsh,"  which  contained  the  cream  of 
Thackeray's  already  printed  writings,  the  "  Yellow- 
plush  Correspondence",  "Major  Gahagan",  "The  Pro- 
fessor "and  "The  Bedford  Row  Conspiracy."  These 
tales  were  accompanied  by  illustrations — the  "Corre- 
spondence" having  a  new  set  in  place  of  those  that 
had  appeared  in  Eraser's  Magazine — and  there  was  a 
pictorial  title-page  on  which  are  depicted  Yellowplush, 
Titmarsh,  and  Gahagan  :  "they  are  supposed  to  be 
marching  hand-in-hand,  and  are  just  on  the  very  brink 
of  Immortality,"  so  Thackeray  concluded  his  preface 
to  the  volume  :  and  there,  on  the  brink  of  Immortality, 
they  stand  to  this  day  seventy  years  later. 

Whether  Cunningham  would  have  no  more  of  Tit- 
marsh, or  Titmarsh  would  have  no  more  of  Cunning- 
ham, the  fact  remains  that  Thackeray,  who  never  for 
a  moment  doubted  he  had  "the  right  stuff"  in  him 
that  must  sooner  or  later  achieve  success,  sought  else- 
where a  market  for  his  manuscripts.  He  suggested  to 
Messrs.    Chapman   and   Hall  that  he  should  write  a 

*  Eraser  s  Magazhte,  June  1841. 
I.— L 


146    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

book  on  Ireland,  and,  the  firm  liking  this  idea,  he 
toured  through  the  Emerald  Isle  in  the  summer  of 
1842.  Early  in  the  next  year  the  work  appeared,  not 
under  the  title  of  ^'The  Cockney  in  Ireland,"  which 
the  author  told  Laman  Blanchard  had  been  abandoned 
owing  to  ''the  pathetic  remonstrances  of  the  pub- 
lishers,"^ but  as  "  The  Irish  Sketch  Book,"  and  signed, 
of  course,  with  the  now  familiar  "  Michael  Angelo 
Titmarsh,"  though  in  the  dedication  Thackeray's  name 
appeared  for  the  first  time  in  one  of  his  books  : 

Laying  aside  for  the  moment  the  travelling  title  of 
Mr.  Titmarsh,  let  me  .  .  .  subscribe  myself,  my 
dear  Lever,  Most  sincerely  and  gratefully  yours, 
W.   M.  Thackeray. 

Charles  Lever,  it  may  be  mentioned,  was  much 
blamed  by  some  of  his  countrymen  for  accepting  the 
dedication  of  a  book  that,  according  to  them,  was  full 
of  blunders  and  exaggerations — though  Edward  Fitz- 
Gerald  wrote  from  Dublin  :  "  It  is  all  true.  I  ordered 
a  bath  here,  and  when  I  got  in  the  waiter  said  it  was 
heated  to  90  degrees,  but  it  was  scalding  ;  he  next 
locked  me  up  in  the  room  instead  of  my  locking  him 
out."  Lever,  however,  ignored  these  attacks,  and, 
confident  that  the  author  had  no  intention  to  misrepre- 
sent the  Irish,  reviewed  the  book  favourably  in  the 
Dublin  University  Magazine,  of  which  he  was  then 
editor.  Lever  was  undoubtedly  right  in  his  belief,  for 
Thackeray  never  desired  to  do  more  than  poke  fun  at 
the  eccentricities  of  the  inhabitants  of  the  neighbouring 
island.      If  he  amused  himself  by  exaggerating  their 

1  Letter  to  Laman  Blanchard,  April  21,  1843  (•"  Blanchard  Jerrold  : 
A  Day  -with  W.  M.  Thackeray,  p.  328), 


1846]  CHARLES    LEVER  147 

pronunciation,   he  did   no  harm  ;   and  who   can   help 
smiling  at  the  ''Lyra  Hibernica"? 

The  noble  Chair  stud  at  the  stair, 

And  bade  the  dthrums  to  thump  ;  and  he 
Did  thus  evince,  to  that  Black  Prince, 

The  welcome  of  his  Company. 
O  fair  the  girls,  and  rich  the  curls, 

And  bright  the  oys,  you  saw  there  was  ; 
And  fixed  each  oye,  ye  there  could  spoi, 

On  GINERAL  JUNG  BAHAWTHER  was  ! 

The  Gineral  great  then  tuk  his  sate 

With  all  the  other  ginerals, 
(Bedad  his  troat,  his  vest,  his  coat. 

All  bleezed  with  precious  minerals) ; 
And  as  he  there,  with  princely  air, 

Recloinin  on  his  cushion  was. 
All  round  about  his  royal  chair 

The  squeezin  and  the  pushin  was. 
O  PAT,  such  girls,  such  Jukes,  and  Earls, 

Such  fashion  and  nobilitee  ! 
Just  think  of  TIM  and  fancy  him 

Amidst  the  hoigh  gentility.^ 

During  the  visit  to  Ireland  Thackeray  stayed  with 
Lever  at  the  latter's  house  at  Templeogue,  and  when 
Thackeray  died  more  than  thirty  years  after,  the  other 
could  still  recall  "with  a  heavy  heart  ...  all  our  long 
evenings  together — mingling  over  plans  for  the  future 
many  a  jest  and  many  a  story."  -  Thackeray  had  read 
Lever's  books,  but  Lever  at  the  outset  knew  no  more 
of  Thackeray  than  he  had  learned  from  the  letter  of 

^  Mr.  Molony's  Account  of  the  Ball  given  to  the  Nepaulese  Ambassador 
by  the  Pejiinsular  and  Oriental  Company. 

^  Letter  to  John  Blackwood,  January  1864  (in  E.  Downey :  Life  and 
Letters  0/  Charles  Lever,  Vol.  II,  p.  2.) 


148    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

introduction  that  the  Englishman  brought,  and  their 
relations  were  merely  formal.  At  dinner,  however, 
Thackeray  told  his  host  that  he  would  rather  have 
written  Harry  Lorrequer's  rendering  of  the  German 
student  song,  '''■  Der  Papst  leht  herrlich  in  der  Weli" 
(''The  Pope  he  leads  a  happy  life"),  than  anything 
he  had  himself  done  in  literature.  When  Lever  was 
convinced  that  Thackeray  was  sincere,  he  was  very 
pleased  with  the  handsome  compliment,  and  soon  a 
more  cordial  tone  prevailed.  ' '  Thackeray's  conversation 
flowed  more  easily  on  the  whole,  like  the  deeper 
current  of  a  river  meandering  through  a  cultivated 
country,  and  only  occasionally  quickening  its  pace  and 
gathering  force  to  dash  over  some  well-selected  point," 
Major  Dwyer  has  written  ;  "  Lever's,  on  the  contrary, 
resembled  a  mountain  torrent,  leaping  over  rocks  and 
precipices  from  pool  to  pool,  in  clouds  of  sparkling 
spray."  ^ 

"  Mr.  Titmarsh"  had  for  some  time  been  known  to  a 
small  and  discerning  section  of  the  reading  public,  but, 
as  it  has  been  shown,  "The  Irish  Sketch  Book"  was 
his  first  successful  book  :  though  a  second  edition  was 
not  brought  out  until  1845,  the  thousand  copies  of  the 
first  edition  were  soon  exhausted.  His  new  publishers 
were  pleased,  and  they  arranged  that  the  first  volume 
of  a  forthcoming  monthly  series  of  original  biographical 
works  should  be  "  A  Life  of  Talleyrand.  By  W.  M. 
Thackeray." 

I  will  engage  to  write  the  volume  [Thackeray  had 
written  to  them  on  July  16,  1844],  and  to  have  the 
MS.  in  your  hands  by  December  i,  health  permitting, 

'  W.  Fitzpatrick  :  Life  of  Charles  Lever, 


1846]        "FROM   CORNHILL   TO   CAIRO"  149 

and  will  sign  an  agreement  to  that  effect,  if  you  will 
have  the  goodness  to  prepare  one. 

This  arrangement  was  first  postponed  in  favour  of 
another  Sketch-Book,  ^"  From  Cornhill  to  Cairo,"  and 
then,  though  Thackeray  told  his  mother  he  had  "  read 
enormously "  for  the  projected  biography,  it  was 
abandoned  in  favour  of  another  volume  for  which  he 
was  to  be  paid  ^200.  The  "  little  book  about  the 
Mediterranean,"  as  Thackeray  referred  to  it,  came  to  be 
written  by  pure  chance.  "  Mr.  Titmarsh  "  was  dining 
at  a  club  on  August  20,  1844,^  and  a  friend  told  him  he 
was  going  for  a  tour  in  the  Mediterranean  arranged 
by  the  P.  and  O.  Company.  The  programme  was 
alluring  :  "In  the  space  of  a  couple  of  months  as  many 
men  and  cities  were  to  be  seen  as  Ulysses  surveyed  and 
noted  in  ten  years "  :  Malta,  Athens,  Smyrna,  Con- 
stantinople, Jerusalem,  Cairo,  were  to  be  visited.  The 
idea  of  beholding  these  famous  places  took  possession 
of  Thackeray's  mind  ;  and  when  his  friend  suggested 
he  should  join  the  party,  he  wavered. 

Mr.  Titmarsh  considered  all  these  things,  but  also 
the  difficulty  of  the  situation  ;  he  had  but  thirty-six 
hours  to  get  ready  for  so  portentous  a  journey — he 
had  engagements  at  home — finally,  could  he  afford 
it?  In  spite  of  these  objections,  however,  with  every 
glass  of  claret  the  enthusiasm  somehow  rose,  and  the 
difficulties  vanished.  But  when  Mr.  James,  to  crown 
all,  said  that  he  had  no  doubt  that  his  friends,  the 
Directors  of  the  Peninsular  and  Oriental  Company, 
would  make  Mr.  Titmarsh   the   present  of  a   berth 

^  In  the  Preface  to  the  book,  Thackeray,  with  characteristic  careless- 
ness, gives  wrong  dates  both  for  the  conversation  at  the  club  and  his 
departure  :  for  July  24  and  July  26  we  must  read  August  20  and 
August  22. 


ISO    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

for  the  voyage,  all  objection  ceased  on  his  part  :  to 
break  his  outstanding  engagements — to  write  letters 
to  his  amazed  family,  stating  they  were  not  to  expect 
him  to  dinner  on  Saturday  fortnight,  as  he  would  be  at 
Jerusalem  on  that  day — to  purchase  eighteen  shirts 
and  lay  in  a  sea  stock  of  Russia  ducks — was  the 
work  of  twenty-four  hours. ^ 

Though  this  trip  was  an  agreeable  change  to  the 
busy  literary  man,  it  was  not  all  holiday.  He  had  to 
make  notes  for  the  book  he  had  undertaken  to  write  ; 
he  was  sending  contributions  to  Punchy  notably  the 
''Travelling  Notes  "and  "Punch  in  the  East";  and 
he  finished  "  Barry  Lyndon,"  which  since  January 
had  been  appearing  month  by  month  in  Eraser's 
Magazine.  The  last  chapters  gave  him  more  trouble 
than  anything  he  had  done,  and  it  was  with  a  feeling 
of  relief  that  he  brought  it  to  a  close.  He  finished 
it  at  Malta,  where  the  party  was  in  quarantine,  and  he 
noted  in  his  diary  :  "  November  i.  Wrote  '  Barry'  but 
slowly,  and  with  great  difficulty." — "November  2. 
Wrote  *  Barry' with  no  more  success  than  yesterday." 
— "November  3.  Finished  '  Barry,'  after  great  throes, 
late  at  night." 

Though  Thackeray  worked  hard,  not  only  on  "  Barry 
Lyndon  "  and  for  Punchy  but  also  on  the  drawings  for 
"  Mrs.  Perkins's  Ball,"  he  enjoyed  the  tour  and 
thoroughly  appreciated  the  change  from  town  life. 

It  is  worth  while  to  have  made  the  journey  for  the 
pleasure  :  to  have  walked  the  deck  on  long  nights, 
and  have  thought  of  home.  You  have  no  leisure  to 
do  so  in  the  city.  You  don't  see  the  heavens  shine 
above  you  so  purely  there,  or  the  stars  so  clearly.^ 

^  From  Comhill  to  Grand  Cairo — Preface.         ^  Ibid.,  chap.  xiv. 


1846]  CARLYLE  V.  TITMARSH  151 

Thackeray  returned  to  England  in  December  (1844), 
and  during  the  next  year  he  wrote  his  account  of  the 
tour  which,  with  his  own  sketches  transferred  to  the 
wood  by  Eyre  Crowe,  appeared  in  January  1846  under 
the  title  of:  "Notes  of  a  Journey  from  Cornhill  to 
Grand  Cairo,  by  way  of  Lisbon,  Athens,  Constanti- 
nople, and  Jerusalem,  Performed  in  the  Steamers  of 
the  Peninsular  and  Oriental  Company.  By  Mr.  M.  A. 
Titmarsh,  Author  of  'The  Irish  Sketch  Book,'  etc." 

When  ''From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo"  appeared, 
Carlyle  made  no  secret  of  the  fact  that  he  thought  it 
undignified  of  Thackeray  to  have  accepted  a  free 
passage,  and  he  compared  the  transaction  to  the  prac- 
tice of  a  blind  fiddler  going  to  and  fro  on  a  penny 
ferry-boat  in  Scotland,  playing  tunes  to  the  passengers 
for  halfpence.^  Indeed,  he  felt  so  strongly  on  the 
matter  that  he  voiced  his  objection  in  Taifs  Edinburgh 
Magazine  (March  1846). 

It  is  that  comparison  of  the  blind  fiddler  who 
^^ sends  round  his  hat^^^  that  ought  to  be  devoted  to 
the  indignation  of  the  press  of  this  kingdom 
[Thackeray  wrote  in  reply].  Your  constant  reader 
has  never  played  on  the  English — or  on  the  Scotch 
fiddle. 

He  leaves  the  sending  round  of  hats  to  professors 
of  the  Caledonian  Cremona.  He  was  not  "  crimped  " 
by  the  Peninsular  and  Oriental  Company,  nor  called 
upon  to  fiddle  for  their  amusement,  nor  rewarded 
with  silver  spoons  by  that  excellent  Company.  A 
gentleman  who  takes  a  vacant  seat  in  a  friend's 
carriage  is  not  supposed  to  receive  a  degrading 
obligation,  or  called  upon  to  pay  for  his  ride  by 
extra  joking,  facetiousness,  etc.  ;  nor  surely  is  the 
person   who  so   gives   you  the    use  of  his  carriage 

^  Sir  Charles  Gavan  Duffy  :  Conversations  7vith  Carlyle. 


152    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

required  to  present  you  also  with  a  guinea  or  to 
pay  your  tavern  bill.  The  critic,  in  fact,  has  shown 
uncommon  keenness  in  observing  the  manners  of 
his  national  violinist ;  but  must  know  more  of  them 
than  of  the  customs  of  English  gentlemen. 

If  the  critic  himself  is  a  man  of  letters  and  fiddles 
professionally,  why  should  he  abuse  his  Stradivarius? 
If  he  is  some  disguised  nobleman  of  lofty  birth, 
superb  breeding,  and  vast  wealth,  who  only  fiddles 
for  pleasure,  he  should  spare  those  gentlefolks  in 
whose  company  he  condescends  to  perform.  But  I 
don't  believe  he's  a  noble  amateur — I  think  he  must 
be  a  professional  man  of  letters.  It  is  only  literary 
men  nowadays  who  commit  this  suicidal  sort  of  im- 
pertinence ;  who  sneak  through  the  world  ashamed 
of  their  calling,  and  show  their  independence  by 
befouling  the  trade  by  which  they  live.^ 

Thackeray  was  made  very  angry  by  the  attack,  as 
can  be  seen  from  the  vigour  of  his  rebuke,  and  his 
subsequent  reference  to  it  in  a  Postscript  added  to  the 
book  when  a  second  edition  was  called  for  in  August. 
Though  his  friend  Charles  Duller  told  Thackeray  he 
agreed  with  Carlyle,  and  that  it  was  also  his  opinion 
that  "  Mr.  Titmarsh  "  ought  not  to  have  gone  fiddling 
for  halfpence  or  otherwise  in  any  steamboat  under  the 
sun,-  it  is  not  easy  to  see  why  all  this  virtuous 
indignation  and  anxiety  was  felt  for  the  dignity  of 
Thackeray  and  the  literary  profession  ;  for  not  only  did 
the  latter  not  "puff "the  Company,  but,  as  he  said,  the 
free  passage  was  given  to  him  not  by  the  Company 
but  by  one  of  his  friends. 

''Titmarsh  at  Jerusalem  will  certainly  be  an  era 
in  Christianity,"  Edward   FitzGerald   had   said   when 

1  Punch,  March  14,  1846. 

^  Sir  Charles  Gavan  Duffy  :  Conversations  with  Carlyle. 


i846]  TITMARSH    AT   JERUSALEM  153 

Thackeray  went  ''From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo." 
But  Jerusalem  did  not  arouse  any  feeling  of  mockery 
in  the  traveller,  who,  since  there  was  no  false  senti- 
ment to  excite  his  satire,  was  much  moved  at  the  sight 
of  the  city  of  many  traditions. 

From  this  terrace  [he  wrote  at  Jerusalem],  whence 
we  looked  in  the  morning,  a  great  part  of  the 
city  spread  before  us  : — white  domes  upon  domes, 
and  terraces  of  the  same  character  as  our  own.  Here 
and  there,  from  among  these  whitewashed  mounds 
round  about,  a  minaret  rose,  or  a  rare  date-tree  ;  but 
the  chief  part  of  the  vegetation  near  was  that  odious 
tree,  the  prickly  pear, — one  huge  green  wart  growing 
out  of  another,  armed  with  spikes,  as  inhospitable  as 
the  aloe,  without  shelter  or  beauty.  To  the  right 
the  Mosque  of  Omar  rose  ;  the  rising  sun  behind  it. 
Yonder  steep  tortuous  lane  before  us,  flanked  by 
ruined  walls  on  either  side,  has  borne,  time  out  of 
mind,  the  title  of  Via  Dolorosa  ;  and  tradition  has 
fixed  the  spots  where  the  Saviour  rested,  bearing  His 
cross  to  Calvary.  But  of  the  mountain,  rising  imme- 
diately in  front  of  us,  a  few  grey  olive-trees  speck- 
ling the  yellow  side  here  and  there,  there  can  be  no 
question.  That  is  the  Mount  of  Olives.  Bethany  lies 
beyond  it.  The  most  sacred  eyes  that  ever  looked 
on  this  world,  have  gazed  on  those  ridges  ;  it  was 
there  He  used  to  walk  and  teach.  With  shame  and 
humility  one  looks  towards  the  spot  where  that  in- 
expressible Love  and  Benevolence  lived  and  breathed ; 
where  the  great  yearning  heart  of  the  Saviour  inter- 
ceded for  all  our  race  ;  and  whence  the  bigots  and 
traitors  of  His  day  led  Him  away  to  kill  Him.^ 

Religion  was  much  in  Thackeray's  thoughts,  though 
there  is  little  mention  of  it  in  his  books. 

' ' O  awful  name  of  God !  Light  unbearable !  Mystery 
unfathomable!    Vastness immeasurable!"  he  exclaimed 

^  From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo,  chap.  xiii. 


154  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 
in  a  white  heat  of  indignation,  when  writing  of 
''Madame  Sand  and  the  New  Apocalypse";  and  he 
was  as  angry  with  Mrs.  Trollope,  who  in  her  novel, 
"  The  Vicar  of  Wrexhill,"  fulminated  against  those 
who  interpreted  the  Scriptures  in  other  ways  than  she. 

Mrs.  Trollope  .  .  .  who  sees  so  keenly  the  follies 
of  the  other  party — how  much  vanity  there  is  in  Bible 
Meetings — how  much  sin  even  at  Missionary  Societies 
—how  much  cant  and  hypocrisy  there  is  among  those 
who  desecrate  the  awful  name  of  God  by  mixing  it  up 
with  their  mean  private  interests  and  petty  projects — 
Mrs.  Trollope  cannot  see  that  there  is  any  hypocrisy 
or  bigotry  on  her  part.  She,  who  designates  the  rival 
party  as  false,  and  wicked,  and  vain,  tracing  all  their 
actions  to  the  basest  motives,  declaring  their  worship 
of  God  to  be  only  one  general  hypocrisy,  their  con- 
duct at  home  one  fearful  scene  of  crime,  is  blind  to 
the  faults  on  her  own  side.  Always  bitter  against 
the  Pharisees,  she  does  as  the  Pharisees  do.  It  is 
vanity,  very  likely,  which  leads  these  people  to  use 
God's  name  so  often,  and  to  devote  all  to  perdition 
who  do  not  coincide  with  their  peculiar  notions.  Is 
Mrs.  Trollope  less  vain  than  they  are  when  she  de- 
clares, and  merely  declares^  her  own  to  be  the  real 
creed,  and  stigmatises  its  rival  so  fiercely?  Is  Mrs. 
Trollope  serving  God,  in  making  abusive  and  licen- 
tious pictures  of  those  who  serve  Him  in  a  different 
way?  Once,  as  Mrs.  Trollope  has  read — it  was  a 
long  time  ago  ! — there  was  a  woman  taken  in  sin  ; 
people  brought  her  before  a  great  Teacher  of  Truth, 
who  lived  in  those  days.  "Shall  we  not  kill  her?" 
said  they;  "the  law  commands  that  all  adultresses 
shall  be  killed." 

We  can  fancy  a  Mrs.  Trollope  in  the  crowd,  shout- 
ing, "  Oh,  the  wretch  !  Oh,  the  abominable  harlot ! 
Kill  her,  by  all  means — stoning  is  really  too  good  for 
her!"  But  what  did  the  Divine  Teacher  say?  He 
was  quite  as  anxious  to  prevent  the  crime  as  any  Mrs. 
Trollope  of  them   all ;    but  He   did    not   make   any 


1846]  JEWS   AND    ROMAN    CATHOLICS       155 

allusion  to  it.  He  did  not  describe  the  manner  in 
which  the  poor  creature  was  caught,  He  made  no 
speech  to  detail  the  indecencies  which  she  had  com- 
mitted, or  to  raise  the  fury  of  the  mob  against  her. 
He  said,  "Let  the  man  who  is  without  sin  himself 
throw  the  first  stone  ! "  Whereupon  the  Pharisees 
and  Mrs.  Trollopes  slunk  away,  for  they  knew  they 
were  no  better  than  she.  There  was  as  great  a  sin  in 
His  eyes  as  that  of  the  poor  erring  woman, — it  was 
the  sin  of  pride. ^ 

Though  Thackeray  attacked  Mrs.  Trollope  on  the 
score  of  narrow-mindedness,  it  must  be  admitted  that 
he  was  not  always  very  tolerant  of  those  whose  religious 
beliefs  differed  from  his  own.  His  dislike  of  the  Jews, 
of  whom  he  always  wrote  with  contempt,  was  based 
upon  his  objection  to  the  race  rather  than  to  their 
religion,  of  which  latter,  indeed,  he  never  spoke  ;  but 
the  Roman  Catholics  he  despised,  not  as  individuals, 
but  because  of  their  religion,  and  he  wrote  of  that  with 
great  harshness. 

I  once  went  into  a  church  at  Rome  at  the  request 
of  a  Catholic  friend,  who  declared  the  interior  to  be 
so  beautiful  and  glorious,  that  he  thought  (he  said)  it 
must  be  like  Heaven  itself.  I  found  walls  hung  with 
cheap  strips  of  pink  and  white  calico,  altars  covered 
with  artificial  flowers,  a  number  of  wax  candles,  and 
plenty  of  gilt  paper  ornaments.  The  place  seemed  to 
me  like  a  shabby  theatre  ;  and  here  was  my  friend  on 
his  knees  at  my  side,  plunged  in  a  rapture  of  wonder 
and  devotion.  I  could  get  no  better  impression  out 
of  this   most  famous   Church  in   the   world.      The 

^  Our  Batch  of  Novels  for  Deceynber  i8jy  (Fraser's  Magazine,  January 
1838).  Shortly  after  Thackeray  had  written  this  article  he  was  invited 
to  a  dinner-party  at  which  Mrs.  Trollope  would  be  present.  "  Oh,  by 
Jove!  I  can't  come,"  he  exclaimed.  "I've  just  cut  up  her  '  Vicar  of 
Wrexhill'  in  a  review.  I  think  she  tells  lies."  (Richard  Bedingfield  : 
Recollections  ef  Thackeray. ) 


156    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1837- 

deceits  are  too  open  and  flagrant :  the  inconsistencies 
and  contrivances  too  monstrous.  It  is  hard  even  to 
sympathise  with  persons  who  receive  them  as  genuine ; 
and  though  (as  I  know  and  saw  in  the  case  of  my 
friend  at  Rome)  the  believer's  life  may  be  passed  in 
the  purest  exercise  of  faith  and  charity,  it  is  difficult 
even  to  give  him  credit  for  honesty,  so  barefaced 
seem  to  be  the  impostures  which  he  professes  to 
believe  and  reverence.  It  costs  one  no  small  effort 
even  to  admit  the  possibility  of  a  Catholic's  credulity  : 
to  share  in  his  rapture  and  devotion  is  still  further 
out  of  your  power  ;  and  I  could  get  from  this  church 
no  other  emotion  but  those  of  shame  and  pain  !  ^ 

In  the  columns  of  Punch  he  appeared  in  active  opposi- 
tion to  the  "Papal  Aggression,"  though  according  to 
Sir  Francis  Burnand,  he  had  little  knowledge  of  the 
subject,  and  subsequently  expressed  his  regret  that  he 
had  taken  part  in  the  attack. 

When  Thackeray  was  at  Brighton  he  went  to  hear 
a  sermon  by  the  Rev.  Joseph  Sortain,  the  incumbent  of 
the  Countess  of  Huntingdon's  Chapel,  upon  which  he 
commented  : 

It  was  about  the  origin  of  nations  he  spoke,  one  of 
those  big  themes  on  which  a  man  can  talk  eternally 
and  with  a  never  ending  outpouring  of  words  ;  and  he 
talked  magnificently,  about  the  Arabs  for  the  most 
part,  and  tried  to  prove  that  because  the  Arabs 
acknowledged  their  descent  from  Ishmael  or  Esau, 
therefore  the  Old  Testament  History  was  true.  But 
the  Arabs  may  have  had  Esau  for  a  father,  and  yet 
the  bears  may  not  have  eaten  up  the  little  children  for 
quizzing  Elisha's  bald  head.- 

Thackeray,  indeed,  had  some  doubts  as  to  the  in- 
fallibility of  the  Bible,  and  when  Richard  Bedingfield 

^  From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo,  chap.  xiii. 

^  A  Collection  of  Letters  of  W.  M.  Thackeray,  p.  35. 


1846]  RELIGION  157 

mentioned  Thomas  Cooper's  lecture  on  Christ,  "Oh, 
Cooper,  the  Chartist!  "he  rejoined.  "I  suppose  he 
only  makes  Christ  a  reformer  !  /  dofi't  knoiv  what  to 
think  !  "  But  such  expressions  were  rare  with  him,  and 
it  seems  certain  that  if  he  sometimes  felt  he  could  not 
accept  the  letter  of  the  Bible,  he  never  ceased  to  believe 
in  its  spirit.  "One  Sunday  evening  in  December," 
Dr.  John  Brown  has  recorded,  "Thackeray  was  walk- 
ing with  two  friends  along  the  Dean  Road,  to  the  west 
of  Edinburgh — one  of  the  noblest  outlets  to  any  city. 
It  was  a  lovely  evening ;  such  a  sunset  as  one  never 
forgets  ;  a  rich  dark  bar  of  cloud  hovered  over  the  sky, 
going  down  behind  the  Highland  hills,  lying  bathed 
in  amethystine  bloom;  between  this  cloud  and  the  hills 
there  was  a  narrow  strip  of  the  pure  ether  of  a  tender 
cowslip  colour,  lucid,  and  as  if  it  were  the  very  body  of 
heaven  in  its  clearness  ;  every  object  standing  out  as 
if  etched  upon  the  sky.  The  north-west  end  of  the 
Corstorphine  Hill,  with  its  trees  and  rocks,  lay  in  the 
heart  of  this  pure  radiance,  and  there  a  wooden  crane, 
used  in  the  granary  below,  was  so  placed  as  to  assume 
the  figure  of  a  cross  ;  there  it  was,  unmistakably  lifted 
up  against  the  crystalline  sky.  All  three  gazed  at  it 
silently.  As  they  gazed,  Thackeray  gave  utterance  in  a 
tremulous,  gentle,  and  rapid  voice,  to  what  all  were 
feeling,  in  the  word  *  Calvary  ! '  The  friends  walked 
on  in  silence,  and  then  turned  to  other  things.  All 
that  evening  he  was  very  gentle  and  serious,  speaking 
as  he  seldom  did,  of  divine  things — of  death,  of  sin, 
of  eternity,  of  salvation,  expressing  his  simple  faith  in 
God  and  in  his  Saviour."^ 

^  Thackeray  (North  British  Review,  February  1864). 


158    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

Like  all  true  men,  he  had  no  fear  of  death,  and 
again  and  again  he  expressed  his  conviction  that 
sympathy  was  needed  not  for  those  who  had  gone 
before  but  for  those  who  remained. 

Where  can  a  good  and  pious  man  be  better  than  in 
the  presence  of  God?  away  from  ill,  and  temptation, 
and  care,  and  secure  of  reward  [he  said  in  a  letter  of 
condolence  written  to  Miss  Charlotte  Low  in  1849]. 
What  a  comfort  it  is  to  think  that  he,  who  was  so  good 
and  faithful  here,  must  be  called  away  to  live  among 
the  good  and  just  for  ever  !  There  never  seems  to  me 
any  cause  for  grief  at  the  thought  of  a  good  man 
dying,  beyond  the  sorrow  for  those  who  survive  him, 
and  trusting  in  God's  mercy  and  wisdom,  infinite  here 
and  everywhere,  await  the  day  when  they  too  shall 
be  called  away.^ 

^  Canon  Irvine  :  A  Study  for  Colonel  Neivcome  (Nineteenth  Century, 
October  1893). 


CHAPTER   X 
ON   PICTURES   AND    BOOKS 

The  savagery  of  criticism  in  the  earlier  decades  of  the  nineteenth  century 
— Thackeray's  papers  on  art — his  outspokenness — and  the  anger  of 
the  painters — his  opinions  of  "Christian"  or  "Catholic"  art — and 
of  the  historical  school  of  painting — his  appreciation  of  "The  Fight- 
ing T^m^raire  " — and  of  George  Cruikshank — miscellaneous  criticism 
of  books — on  Byron — on  the  annuals — his  attack  on  Ainsworth — 
his  explanation — on  the  Newgate  school  of  fiction — "Catherine" — 
its  purpose — and  the  author's  criticism  of  his  book — his  savage 
attacks  on  Bulwer-Lytton — and  his  subsequent  cry  of  "Peccavi" — 
"Mr.  Yellowplush's  Ajew" — his  appreciation  of  some  contemporary 
writers — Scott  and  Dumas  his  favourite  novelists — his  opinions  of 
Swift,  Sterne,  Addison,  Steele,  Goldsmith,  Prior  and  Gay — of  Smol- 
lett and  Fielding — his  love  for  kindly  writers — and  happy  endings. 

IN  the  late  thirties  and  forties  of  the  last 
century,  when  Thackeray  was  a  reviewer,  the 
most  noticeable  feature  of  contemporary  criti- 
cism was  savagery.  Party  spirit  ran  high,  and 
a  Tory  had  as  little  chance  of  obtaining  justice  at  the 
hands  of  the  pundits  of  the  Edinburgh  Review  as  a 
Whig  of  receiving  commendation  from  the  writers  of 
the  Quarterly  RevieWy  Black-wood" s  or  Eraser's  Maga- 
zine. "You  have  called  Hazlitt  pimpled,  affected, 
ignorant,  a  Cockney  scribbler,  etc.,"  Maginn  wrote  to 
William  Blackwood  in  1823;  "but  what  is  that  to 
what  he  has  said  to  the  most  brilliant  men  of  the 
age?  Hook-nosed  Wellington,  vulture-beaked  Southey, 

159 


i6o    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

hanging-browed  Croker,  down-looking  Jack  Murray, 
and  Mudford  fat  as  fleecy  hosiery."  If  HazHtt  led  the 
way,  Macaulay  and  Croker,  Lockhart  and  Maginn 
were  not  far  behind,  and,  at  a  distance,  Thackeray 
followed  in  their  footsteps.  A  Whig  on  the  staff  of 
a  Tory  magazine,  Thackeray  was  not  asked  to  exercise 
his  satirical  powers  on  political  personages  ;  and  to 
him  fell  the  more  congenial  task  of  reviewing  art  and 
letters  :  in  which  field  he  restrained  himself  not  at  all, 
and  when  he  disliked  a  book  or  a  picture  left  nothing 
of  his  disapproval  to  the  imagination  of  his  readers. 

Thackeray's  papers  on  art  were  certainly  as  out- 
spoken as  they  were  amusing,  and  his  annual  humor- 
istical  article  on  the  exhibitions  so  infuriated  the 
painters  that  Frank  Stone  told  Edward  FitzGerald  that 
"Thackeray  would  get  himself  horsewhipped  one  day 
by  one  of  the  infuriated  Apelleses."  In  art  as  in 
literature  Thackeray  sought  the  natural,  and  when  he 
could  find  only  affectation,  he  wielded  the  critical  flail 
with  no  little  vigour.  The  "  Christian  "  or  ** Catholic" 
art  seemed  to  him  humbug,  and  he  attacked  it 
accordingly. 

Here,  for  instance,  is  Chevalier  Ziegler's  picture 
of  "St.  Luke  painting  the  Virgin."  St.  Luke  has 
a  monk's  dress  on,  embroidered,  however,  smartly 
round  the  sleeves.  The  Virgin  sits  in  an  immense 
yellow-ochre  halo,  with  her  son  in  her  arms.  She 
looks  preternaturally  solemn  ;  as  does  St.  Luke,  who 
is  eyeing  his  paint-brush  with  an  intense,  ominous, 
mystical  look.  They  call  this  Catholic  art.  There 
is  nothing,  my  dear  friend,  more  easy  in  life.  First 
take  your  colours,  and  rub  them  down  clear — bright 
carmine,  bright  yellow,  bright  sienna,  bright  ultra- 
marine, bright  green.    Make  your  costumes  as  much 


WILLIAM    .MAKKI'LAi  K     IlIACKEKAV 
From  an  jinfuihlished  ivatei'-colouT  di'aiving  by  D.  Dighion 
Reproduced  by  permission  of  Major  William  H.  Lambert 


HAYDON   AND   TURNER  i6i 

as  possible  like  the  costumes  of  the  early  part  of  the 
fifteenth  century.  Paint  them  in  with  the  above 
colours,  and  if  on  a  gold  ground,  the  more  ''Catholic" 
your  art  is.  Dress  your  Apostles  like  priests  before 
the  altar  ;  and  remember  to  have  a  good  commodity 
of  crosiers,  censers,  and  other  such  gimcracks,  as 
you  may  see  in  the  Catholic  chapels,  in  Sutton 
Street,  or  elsewhere.  Deal  in  Virgins,  and  dress 
them  like  a  burgomaster's  wife  by  Cranach  or  Van 
Eyck.  Give  them  all  long  twisted  tails  to  their 
gowns,  and  proper  angular  draperies.  Place  all 
their  heads  on  one  side,  with  the  eyes  shut  and  the 
proper  solemn  simper.  At  the  back  of  the  head, 
draw,  and  gild  with  gold-leaf,  a  halo,  or  glory,  of 
the  exact  shape  of  a  cart-wheel :  and  you  have  the 
thing  done.  It  is  Catholic  art  tout  crache ;  as  Louis 
Philippe  says. 

He  had  little  affection  for  the  historical  school,  and 
made  cruel  fun  of  Haydon's  immense  canvases,  of 
one  of  which  he  wrote  : 

Let  us  hope  somebody  will  buy.  Who,  I  cannot 
tell  ;  it  will  not  do  for  a  chapel  ;  it  is  too  big  for  a 
house  :  I  have  it — it  might  answer  to  hang  up  over 
a  caravan  at  a  fair,  if  a  travelling  orrery  were  ex- 
hibited within.^ 

Thackeray  had  his  likes  and  dislikes  like  any  other 
critic,  but  when  he  saw  fine  work  he  rarely  failed  to 
recognise  it.  The  author  of  the  biography  of  Turner 
has  stated  that  "  Thackeray  had  more  than  a  finger  in 
lashing  the  dotage  of  this  great  man's  genius,"  but, 
though  the  critic  did  not  think  highly  of  ''Cicero  at 
his  Villa  "  and  other  works  of  the  painter,  and  did  not 
know  whether  "The  Slave-Trader"  was  sublime  or 
ridiculous,   his   splendid    tribute    to    "  The    Fighting 

^  Picture  Gossip  i^Fraser's  Magazine,  June,  1845.) 
I.— M 


i62    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Temeraire  "  made  amends  for  his  want  of  appreciation 
of  the  other  pieces. 

I  must  request  you  to  turn  your  attention  to  a 
noble  river  piece  by  J.  W.  M.  Turner,  Esq.,  R.A., 
"  The  Fighting  Temeraire  " — as  grand  a  painting  as 
ever  figured  on  the  walls  of  any  academy,  or  came 
from  the  easel  of  any  painter.  The  old  Temeraire 
is  dragged  to  her  last  home  by  a  little,  spiteful, 
diabolical  steamer.  A  mighty  red  sun,  amidst  a 
host  of  flaring  clouds,  sinks  to  rest  on  one  side  of 
the  picture,  and  illumines  a  river  that  seems  inter- 
minable, and  a  countless  navy  that  fades  away  into 
such  a  wonderful  distance  as  never  was  painted 
before.  The  little  demon  of  a  steamer  is  belching 
out  a  volume  (why  do  I  say  a  volume?  not  a  hundred 
volumes  could  express  it)  of  foul,  lurid,  red-hot 
malignant  smoke,  paddling  furiously  and  lashing 
up  the  water  about  it ;  while  behind  it  (a  cold  grey 
moon  looking  down  on  it),  slow,  sad,  and  majestic, 
follows  the  brave  old  ship,  with  death,  as  it  were, 
written  on  her.  .  .  .  It  is  absurd,  you  will  say  (and 
with  a  great  deal  of  reason)  for  Titmarsh,  or  any 
other  Briton,  to  grow  so  politically  enthusiastic  about 
a  four-foot  canvas,  representing  a  ship,  a  steamer, 
a  river,  and  a  sunset.  But  herein  surely  lies  the 
power  of  the  great  artist.  He  makes  you  see  and 
think  of  a  good  deal  more  than  the  objects  before 
you ;  he  knows  how  to  soothe  or  intoxicate,  to  fire  or  to 
depress,  by  a  few  notes,  or  forms,  or  colours,  of  which 
we  cannot  trace  the  effects  to  the  source,  but  only  ac- 
acknowledge  the  power.  I  recollect  some  years  ago,  at 
the  theatre  at  Weimar,  hearing  Beethoven's  ''Battle 
of  Vittoria,"  in  which,  amidst  a  storm  of  glorious 
music,  the  air  of  "God  save  the  King"  was  intro- 
duced. The  very  instant  it  began,  every  English- 
man in  the  house  was  bolt  upright,  and  so  stood 
reverently  until  the  air  was  played  out.  Why  so  ? 
From  some  such  thrill  of  excitement  as  makes  us 
glow  and  rejoice  over  Mr.  Turner  and  his  "Fighting 
Temeraire,"  which  I  am  sure,  when  the  art  of  trans- 


GEORGE   CRUIKSHANK  163 

lating  colours  into  music  or  poetry  shall  be  discovered, 
will  be  found  to  be  a  magnificent  natural  ode  or  piece 
of  music. ^ 

Thackeray's  papers  on  art  are  too  well  known  for 
it  to  be  desirable  here,  where  the  object  is  to  de- 
scribe rather  than  to  criticise  them,  to  embark  upon 
a  lengthy  discussion,  and  these  brief  remarks  may 
conclude  with  the  well-deserved  panegyric  on  one  of 
the  greatest  of  the  humoristical  artists,  upon  whose 
work  he  was  well  qualified  to  speak. 

The  reader  will  perhaps  wonder  at  the  high-flown 
tone  in  which  we  speak  of  the  services  and  merits  of 
an  individual,  whom  he  considers  a  humble  scraper 
on  steel,  that  is  wonderfully  popular  already.  But 
none  of  us  remember  all  the  benefits  we  owe  him  ; 
they  have  come  one  by  one,  one  driving  out  the 
memory  of  the  other  ;  it  is  only  when  we  come  to 
examine  them  altogether  as  the  writer  has  done,  who 
has  a  pile  of  books  on  the  table  before  him — a  heap 
of  personal  kindnesses  from  George  Cruikshank 
(not  presents,  if  you  please,  for  we  bought,  borrowed, 
or  stole  every  one  of  them),  that  we  feel  what  we  owe 
him.  Look  at  one  of  Mr.  Cruikshank's  works,  and 
we  pronounce  him  an  excellent  humourist.  Look  at 
all,  his  reputation  is  increased  by  a  kind  of  geometri- 
cal progression  ;  as  a  whole  diamond  is  a  hundred 
times  more  valuable  than  the  hundred  splinters  into 
which  it  might  be  broken  would  be.  A  fine  rough 
English  diamond  is  this  about  which  we  have  been 
writing.^ 

Thackeray  in  these  early  days  of  his  literary  career 
was,  as  it  has  been  shown,  prepared  to  write  for  any- 
body or  on  anything,  and  a  glance  at  the  subjects  with 

'  A  Second  Lecture  on  the  Fine  Arts  (Fraser's  Magazine,  June  1839). 
"^  An  Essay  on  the  Genius  of  George  Cruikshank  (  Westminster  Review^ 
June  1840). 


i64    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  f 

which    he    dealt   recalls  the   picture   he   subsequently 
presented  of  his  young  friend,  Pendennis. 

The  courage  of  young  critics  is  prodigious  :  they 
clamber  up  to  the  judgment-seat,  and,  with  scarce  a 
hesitation,  give  their  opinion  upon  works  the  most 
intricate  or  profound.  Had  Macaulay's  History  or 
Herschell's  Astronomy  been  put  before  Pen  at  this 
period,  he  would  have  looked  through  the  volumes, 
meditated  his  opinion  over  a  cigar,  and  signified  his 
august  approval  of  either  author,  as  if  the  critic  had 
been  their  born  superior,  and  indulgent  master  and 
patron.  By  the  help  of  the  "  Biographic  Univer- 
selle  "  or  the  British  Museum,  he  would  be  able  to 
take  a  rapid  resume  of  a  historical  period,  and  allude 
to  names,  dates,  and  facts,  in  such  a  masterly,  easy 
way,  as  to  astonish  his  mamma  at  home,  who  won- 
dered where  her  boy  could  have  acquired  such  a 
prodigious  store  of  reading,  and  himself,  too,  when 
he  came  to  read  over  his  articles  two  or  three  months 
after  they  had  been  composed,  and  when  he  had 
forgotten  the  subject  and  the  books  which  he  had 
consulted.  At  that  period  of  his  life,  Mr.  Pen  owns 
that  he  would  not  have  hesitated,  at  twenty-four  hours' 
notice,  to  pass  an  opinion  upon  the  greatest  scholars, 
or  to  give  a  judgment  upon  the  Encyclopasdia.^ 

Thackeray  was  probably  not  called  upon  to  review 
an  encyclopsedia,  but  he  did  not  hesitate  to  pronounce 
judgment  upon  Carlyle's  ''  French  Revolution,"  Count 
Valerian  Krasinski's  "History  of  the  Reformation  in 
Poland,"  Tyler's  "Life  of  Henry  V,"  Eraser's  "Jour- 
ney from  Constantinople  to  Teheran,"  and  scores  of 
other  works  upon  which  he  was  certainly  not  able  to 
speak  with  authority.  There  were,  however,  some 
subjects  more  congenial  to  him,  and  the  expression  of 
his  opinions  on  these  are  of  assistance  in  the  task  of 

*  Pendennis^  chap,  xxxvi. 


THE   ANNUALS  165 

presenting  his  character.  We  see  him  from  the  first 
tilting  with  all  his  powers  against  affectation,  against 
snobbery  and  against  the  degradation  of  the  literary 
art.  With  what  fire  did  he  attack  Byron  on  the  first  of 
these  counts. 

Give  me  a  fresh,  dewy,  healthy  rose  out  of  Somer- 
setshire; not  one  of  those  superb,  tawdry,  unwhole- 
some exotics,  which  are  only  good  to  make  poems 
about.  Lord  Byron  wrote  more  cant  of  this  sort  than 
any  poet  I  know  of.  Think  of  ''the  peasant  girls 
with  dark  blue  eyes"  of  the  Rhine — the  brown-faced, 
flat-nosed,  thick-lipped,  dirty  wenches  !  Think  of 
"  filling  high  a  cup  of  Samian  wine  "  ;  small  beer  is 
nectar  compared  to  it,  and  Byron  himself  always 
drank  gin.  That  man  7iever  wrote  from  his  heart. 
He  got  up  rapture  and  enthusiasm  with  an  eye  to  the 
public;  .  .  .  Our  native  bard!  Mon  dieii!  He 
Shakespeare's,  Milton's,  Keats',  Scott's  native  bard  ! 
Well,  woe  be  to  the  man  who  denies  the  public  gods!^ 

How  angry  he  was  with  the  artists  and  authors  who 
contributed  to  the  "  Keepsake  "  and  other  trashy 
annuals,  and  how  vigorously  he  attacked  them  again 
and  again  in  Eraser's  Magazine  and  the  Times! 

Miss  Landon,  Miss  Mitford,  or  my  Lady  Blessing- 
ton,  writes  a  song  upon  the  opposite  page  [to  the 
plate],  about  water  lily,  chilly,  stilly,  shivering  be- 
side a  streamlet,  plighted,  blighted,  love-benighted, 
falsehood  sharper  than  a  gimlet,  lost  affection,  recol- 
lection, cut  connexion,  tears  in  torrents,  true  love- 
token,  spoken,  broken,  sighing,  dying,  girl  of 
Florence,  and  so  on.  The  poetry  is  quite  worthy  of 
the  picture,  and  a  little  sham  sentiment  is  employed 
to  illustrate  a  little  sham  art.  ...  It  cannot  be 
supposed  that  Miss  Landon,  a  woman  of  genius, — 
Miss  Mitford,  a  lady  of  exquisite   wit   and   taste — 

^  From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo,  chap.  v. 


i66    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

should,  of  their  own  accord,  sit  down  to  indite  namby- 
pamby  verses  about  silly,  half-decent  pictures  ;  or 
that  Jenkins,  Parris,  Meadows,  and  Co.,  are  not 
fatigued  by  this  time  with  the  paltry  labour  assigned 
to  them.  .  .  .  Who  sets  them  to  this  wretched 
work? — to  paint  these  eternal  fancy  portraits,  of  ladies 
in  voluptuous  attitudes  and  various  stages  of  disha- 
bille, to  awaken  the  dormant  sensibilities  of  misses  in 
their  teens,  or  tickle  the  worn-out  palettes  of  rakes 
and  roues.  What  a  noble  occupation  for  a  poet ! 
what  a  delicate  task  for  an  artist !  ^ 

Even  more  likely  than  these  ephemeral  productions 
to  bring  letters  into  contempt  was  a  manifesto  issued  by 
Ainsworth,  when  that  novelist  took  over  the  Monthly 
Magazine  from  Colburn  ;  and  this  in  a  vigorous  pro- 
test, unknown  to  the  present  generation,  Thackeray 
held  up  to  ridicule. 

Mr.  Ainsworth,  '*  on  whom  the  Editorship  of  the 
New  Monthly  Magazine  has  devolved,"  parades  a  list 
of  contributors  to  that  brilliant  periodical,  and  says 
he  has  secured  the  aid  of  several  writers  *'  eminent  not 
only  for  talent^  but  for  high  rank." 

Are  they  of  high  rank  as  authors,  or  in  the  Red 
Book?  Mr.  Ainsworth  can't  mean  that  the  readers  of 
his  Magazine  care  for  an  author  because  he  happens 
to  be  a  lord — a  flunkey  might — but  not  a  gentleman 
who  has  any  more  brains  than  a  fool.  A  literary 
gentleman  who  respects  his  calling  doesn't  surely 
mean  to  propitiate  the  public  by  saying,  "  I  am  going 
to  write  for  you,  and — and  Lord  Fitzdiddle  is  going 
to  write  too." 

Hang  it,  man,  let  him  write — write  and  be — suc- 
cessful, or  write  and  be — unsuccessful,  according  to 
his  merits.  But  don't  let  us  talk  about  high  rank  in 
the  republic  of  letters — let  us  keep  that  place  clear. 
Publishers  have  sought  for  lordlings,  we  know,  and 

^  A  Word  on  the  Annuals  (Fraser's  Magazine,  December  1837). 


WILLIAM    HARRISON    AINSWORTH      167 

got  them  to  put  their  unlucky  names  to  works  which 
they  never  wrote  ;  but  don't  let  men  of  letters  demean 
themselves  in  this  way. 

No,  William  Harrison,  trust  to  your  own  powers 
and  genius — trust  to  the  harrowing  influence  of  the 
"  Revelations  of  London  " — trust  to  the  contributors 
''who  have  shed  a  lustre  over  the  Magazine,"  the 
enterprising  and  erudite  Whatdyecallem  ;  Thingamy 
"whose  domestic  tales  have  found  an  echo  in  every 
bosom,"  and  the  rest.  But  don't  let  us  hear  any  more 
of  high  rank  as  a  recommendation.^ 

No  sooner  had  these  lines  gone  to  the  printer  than 
Thackeray  felt  uncomfortable  at  the  thought  of  attacking 
a  man  he  knew  from  behind  the  safe  shield  of  anony- 
mity, and  he  proceeded  to  avow  the  authorship. 

Of  course  I'll  come  to  dinner  on  Sunday,  and  we 
are  just  as  good  friends  as  ever  [he  wrote  to  Ains- 
worth,  on  June  30,  1845].  Wasn't  it  much  better  to 
complain  and  explain?  I  think  so — and  the  imperial 
house  of  Titmarsh  is  now  satisfied.  There's  one  thing 
I  regret  very  much,  and  must  be  told  to  you  now  in 
making  a  clean  breast  of  it — is  a  certain  paragraph 
in  the  next  Punchy  relating  to  a  certain  advertisement 
about  contributors,  *'  not  only  of  talent,  hiU  of  rank.^'' 
This  moved  my  wrath  ;  and  has  been  hardly  handled 
— this  was  before  our  meeting  and  explanation — I 
always  must  think  it  a  very  objectionable  advertise- 
ment— but  shouldn't  have  lifted  my  hand  to  smite  my 
friend,  had  explanation  come  earlier,  so  that  no^ you 
must  be  called  upon  to  play  the  part  of  forgiver,  in 
which  I'm  sure  you  will  shine.  .  .  .  Your  terms 
are  prodigiously  good,  and  if  I  can  see  the  material 
for  a  funny  story  you  shall  have  it.^ 

^  Immense  Opportunity  {Punch,  July  5,  1845).  This  paper  has  only 
been  reprinted  in  Macmillan's  edition  of  Thackeray's  Works  (Vol.  XVII, 
"  Travels  in  London,  etc."). 

^  M.  H.  Spielmann  :  Thackeray's  Hitherto  Unpublished  Contributions 
to  "  Punch"  p.  133. 


i68    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Thackeray,  however,  did  not  find  material  for  a  "funny 
story,"  and  he  never  wrote  again  for  the  New  Monthly 
Magazine^  but  it  is  pleasant  to  relate  that  Ainsworth 
accepted  the  olive  branch,  and  that  henceforth  the 
relations  between  them  were  cordial. 

To  return  to  Thackeray  as  a  reader  and  critic  of 
books.  Something  has  already  been  said  of  his 
attitude  towards  the  Newgate  school  of  fiction,  and  he 
was  never  weary  of  protesting  against  it. 

Vice  is  never  to  be  mistaken  for  virtue  in  Fielding's 
honest  downright  books  ;  it  goes  by  its  name,  and 
invariably  gets  its  punishment.  See  the  consequences 
of  honesty  !  Many  a  squeamish  lady  of  our  time 
would  throw  down  one  of  these  romances  with  horror, 
but  would  go  through  every  page  of  Mr.  Ainsworth's 
"Jack  Sheppard "  with  perfect  comfort  to  herself. 
Ainsworth  dared  not  paint  his  hero  as  the  scoundrel 
he  knew  him  to  be  ;  he  must  keep  his  brutalities  in 
the  background,  else  the  public  morals  will  be  out- 
raged, and  so  he  produces  a  book  quite  absurd  and 
unreal,  and  infinitely  more  immoral  than  anything 
Fielding  ever  wrote.  "Jack  Sheppard"  is  immoral 
actually  because  it  is  decorous.  The  Spartans,  who 
used  to  show  drunken  slaves  to  their  children,  took 
care,  no  doubt,  that  the  slave  should  be  really  and 
truly  drunk.  Sham  drunkenness  which  never  passed 
the  limits  of  propriety,  but  only  went  so  far  as  to  be 
amusing,  would  be  rather  an  object  to  incite  youth 
to  intoxication  than  to  deter  him  from  it,  and  some 
late  novels  have  always  struck  us  in  the  same  light.^ 

This  clearly  expressed  the  view  he  held  on  the  subject, 
and  "  Catherine,"  though  presented  as  a  story,  was,  in 
fact,  an  attempt  to  counteract  the  influence  of  those 
books  that  made  heroes  of  highwaymen  and  murderers, 

^  Review  of  Fielding's  Works  (the  Times,  September  2,  1840). 


THE  NEWGATE  SCHOOL  OF  FICTION   169 

and   created   a    false    sympathy   for   the   vicious    and 
criminal. 

We  ought,  perhaps,  to  make  some  apologies  to 
the  public  for  introducing  them  to  characters  that 
are  so  utterly  worthless  ;  as  we  confess  all  our  heroes, 
with  the  exception  of  Mr.  Bullock,  to  be  [Thackeray 
wrote  at  the  end  of  chapter  i].  In  this  we  have 
consulted  nature  and  history,  rather  than  the  pre- 
vailing taste  and  the  general  manner  of  authors. 
The  amusing  novel  of  "Ernest  Maltravers,"  for 
instance,  opens  with  a  seduction  ;  but  then  it  is  per- 
formed by  people  of  the  strictest  virtue  on  both  sides; 
and  there  is  so  much  religion  and  philosophy  in  the 
heart  of  the  seducer,  so  much  tender  innocence  in 
the  soul  of  the  seduced,  that — bless  the  little  dears  ! — 
their  very  peccadilloes  make  one  interested  in  them  ; 
and  their  naughtiness  becomes  quite  sacred,  so 
deliciously  is  it  described.  Now,  if  we  are  to  be 
interested  by  rascally  actions,  let  us  have  them  with 
plain  faces,  and  let  them  be  performed,  not  by 
virtuous  philosophers,  but  by  rascals.  Another 
clever  class  of  novelists  adopt  the  contrary  system, 
and  create  interest  by  making  their  rascals  perform 
virtuous  actions.  Against  these  popular  plans  we 
here  solemnly  appeal.  We  say,  let  your  rogues  in 
novels  act  like  rogues,  and  your  honest  men  like 
honest  men  ;  don't  let  us  have  any  juggling  and 
thimblerigging  with  virtue  and  vice,  so  that,  at  the 
end  of  three  volumes,  the  bewildered  reader  shall 
not  know  which  is  which  ;  don't  let  us  find  ourselves 
kindling  at  the  generous  qualities  of  thieves,  and 
sympathising  at  the  rascalities  of  noble  hearts.  For 
our  own  part,  we  know  what  the  public  likes,  and 
have  chosen  rogues  for  our  characters,  and  have 
taken  a  story  from  the  "Newgate  Calendar,"  which 
we  hope  to  follow  out  to  edification.  Among  the 
rogues,  at  least,  we  will  have  nothing  that  shall  be 
mistaken  for  virtues.  And  if  the  British  public  (after 
calling  for  three  or  four  editions)  shall  give  up,  not 
only  our  rascals,  but  the  rascals  of  all  other  authors, 


I70    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

we  shall  be  content — we  shall  apply  to  government 
for  a  pension,  and  think  that  our  duty  is  done. 

A  little  further  on,  Thackeray  again  stopped  the 
narrative  to  make  a  further  protest. 

The  public  will  hear  of  nothing  but  rogues  ;  and 
the  only  way  in  which  poor  authors,  who  must  live, 
can  act  honestly  by  the  public  and  themselves,  is  to 
paint  such  thieves  as  they  are  ;  not  dandy,  poetical, 
rose-water  thieves,  but  real  downright  scoundrels, 
leading  scoundrelly  lives,  drunken,  profligate,  dis- 
solute, low,  as  scoundrels  will  be.  They  don't  quote 
Plato,  like  Eugene  Aram  ;  or  live  like  gentlemen, 
and  sing  the  pleasantest  ballads  in  the  world,  like 
jolly  Dick  Turpin  ;  or  prate  eternally  about  to  koXov, 
like  that  precious  canting  Maltravers,  whom  we  all 
of  us  have  read  about  and  pitied  ;  or  die  whitewashed 
saints,  like  poor  Biss  Dadsy  in  "  Oliver  Twist."  No, 
my  dear  madam,  you  and  your  daughters  have  no 
right  to  admire  and  sympathise  with  any  such 
persons,  fictitious  or  real :  you  ought  to  be  made 
cordially  to  detest,  scorn,  loathe,  abhor,  and  abom- 
inate all  people  of  this  kidney.  Men  of  genius,  like 
those  whose  works  we  have  above  alluded  to,  have 
no  business  to  make  these  characters  interesting  or 
agreeable ;  to  be  feeding  your  morbid  fancies,  or 
indulging  their  own,  with  such  monstrous  food.  For 
our  parts,  young  ladies,  we  beg  you  to  bottle  up  your 
tears,  and  not  waste  a  single  drop  of  them  on  any  of 
the  heroes  or  heroines  in  this  history  :  they  are  all 
rascals,  every  soul  of  them,  and  behave  "as  sich." 
Keep  your  sympathy  for  those  who  deserve  it ;  don't 
carry  it,  for  preference,  to  the  Old  Bailey,  and  grow 
maudlin  over  the  company  assembled  there.^ 

In  this  satire,  which  is  founded  upon  an  incident 
narrated  in  the  "  Newgate  Calendar,"  Thackeray 
mitigated  as  little  as  possible  of  the  horrors,  with  the 

^  Catherine,  chap.  ii. 


LAMPOONS   BULWER   LYTTON  171 

unfortunate  result  that  readers,  forgetful  or  ignorant 
of  the  purpose  which  inspired  it,  were  absorbed  and 
fascinated  by  the  realistic  narrative,  and  critics  of 
little  discernment  wrote  of  it  as  one  of  the  dullest, 
most  vulgar,  and  immoral  works  extant.  No  doubt 
those  who  were  disgusted  by  *' Catherine,"  later 
thought  Thackeray  an  admirer  of  Barry  Lyndon, 
Esq.,  and  regarded  Henry  Fielding  as  a  staunch 
sympathiser  with  the  unfortunate  Mr.  Jonathan  Wild. 
Irony  is  a  dangerous  weapon,  and  Thackeray  realised 
that  with  "  Catherine  "  he  had  not  achieved  his  purpose. 
Thackeray's  dislike  of  Lytton  as  the  author  of 
''Eugene  Aram"  was  much  aggravated  by  that 
author's  affectations,  and  very  bitterly  did  he  attack 
him  in  Eraser's  Magazine.  When  in  after  days 
Thackeray  remarked,  "I  suppose  we  all  begin  by 
being  too  savage  :  I  know  one  'mho  didy"  it  is  probable 
that  he  was  thinking  of  this  and  other  attacks  on 
Lytton,  which,  indeed,  were  so  violent  as  to  suggest 
personal  animus,  though,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  the 
objections  he  entertained  against  this  author  were 
purely  abstract. 

I  wish  to  egsplain  what  I  meant  last  night  with 
regard  to  a  certain  antipathy  to  a  certain  great 
author  [he  wrote  to  Lady  Blessington  in  1848].  I 
have  no  sort  of  personal  dislike  (not  that  it  matters 
whether  I  have  or  not)  to  Sir  E.  L.  B.  L.,  on  the 
contrary  the  only  time  I  met  him,  at  the  immortal 
Ainsworth's  years  ago,  I  thought  him  very  pleasant, 
and  I  know  from  his  conduct  to  my  dear  little 
Blanchard  that  he  can  be  a  most  generous  and 
delicate-minded  friend.  BUT  there  air  sentiments 
in  his  writings  which  always  anger  me,  big  words 
which  make    me   furious,    and   a   premeditated   fine 


172    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

writing  against  which  I  can't  help  rebelling.  .  .  . 
My  antipathy  don't  go  any  farther  than  this  :  and  it 
is  accompanied  by  a  great  deal  of  admiration.  I 
felt  ashamed  of  myself  when  I  came  home  and 
thought  how  needlessly  I  had  spoken  of  this.  What 
does  it  matter  one  way  or  the  other,  and  what  cause 
had  I  to  select  Sir  H.  Bulwer  of  all  men  in  the  world 
for  these  odious  confidences.  It  was  very  rude. 
I  am  always  making  rude  speeches  and  apologising 
for  them,  like  a  Nuisance  to  Society.  And  now  I 
remember  how  Sir  B.  Lytton  spoke  in  a  very  differ- 
ent manner  to  a  mutual  friend  about  your  very 
humble  servant. 


Thackeray  was  somewhat  troubled  by  these  early 
onslaughts  on  Lytton,  and,  when  at  the  request  of 
the  American  publisher,  Appleton,  he  wrote  a  preface 
to  an  edition  of  his  minor  works,  he  took  the  oppor- 
tunity to  express  his  regret. 

There  is  an  opportunity  of  being  satiric  or  senti- 
mental. The  careless  papers  written  at  an  early 
period,  and  never  seen  since  the  printer's  boy  carried 
them  away,  are  brought  back  and  laid  at  the  father's 
door  ;  and  he  cannot,  if  he  would,  disown  his  own 
children.  Why  were  some  of  the  little  brats  brought 
out  of  their  obscurity?  I  own  to  a  feeling  of  any- 
thing but  pleasure  in  reviewing  some  of  these  mis- 
shapen juvenile  creatures,  which  the  publisher 
has  disinterred  and  resuscitated.  There  are  two 
performances  especially  (among  the  critical  and 
biographical  works  of  the  erudite  Mr.  Yellowplush) 
which  I  am  sorry  to  see  reproduced,  and  I  ask 
pardon  of  the  author  of  ''The  Caxtons "  for  a 
lampoon,  which  I  know  he  himself  has  forgiven, 
and  which  I  wish  I  could  recall.  I  had  never  seen 
that  eminent  writer  but  once  in  public  when  this 
satire  was  penned,  and  wonder  at  the  recklessness  of 
the  young  man  who  could  fancy  such  personality  was 


APOLOGIES   TO   LYTTON  173 

harmless  jocularity,    and    never   calculated    that   it 
might  give  pain.^ 

It  was  some  years  later  that  Thackeray  told  a  friend 
of  his  and  Lytton,  that  he  would  have  given  worlds  to 
have  burnt  those  lampoons,  and  that  he  much  wished 
to  see  the  latter  and  express  his  contrition.  Thackeray 
gave  his  friend  to  understand  that  he  desired  his 
feeling  of  regret  and  his  admiration  for  the  *'  Caxton  " 
series  of  novels  to  be  communicated  to  the  man  he 
had  wantonly  attacked  ;  and  soon  after  he  wrote  to 
Lord  Lytton. 

Looking  over  some  American  reprints  of  my  books, 
I  find  one  containing  a  preface  written  by  me  when 
I  was  in  New  York,  in  which  are  the  following 
words:  [here  is  copied  the  passage  printed  above]. 
I  don't  know  whether  you  were  ever  made  aware  of 
this  cry  of  "  Peccavi  "  :  but,  with  the  book  in  which 
it  appears  just  fresh  before  me,  I  think  it  fair  to 
write  a  line  to  acquaint  you  with  the  existence  of 
such  an  apology  ;  and  to  assure  you  of  the  author's 
repentance  for  the  past,  and  the  present  goodwill.^ 

Bulwer  Lytton's  reputation,  founded  mainly  upon  his 
later  novels,  cannot  be  injured  by  the  reviving  of  any 
criticism  directed  against  the  early  work,  and  therefore 
it  is  permissible  to  reprint  here  the  delightful  burlesque 
speech  which  Thackeray  put  into  his  mouth,  in  which 
he  endeavours  to  dissuade  Yellowplush  from  entering 
the  literary  calling. 

'*  Yellowplush,"  says  he,  seizing  my  hand,  ''you 
are  right.     Quit  not  your  present  occupation  ;  black 

^  Preface  to  Mr.  Brown's  Letters  to  a  Yon7tg  Man  about  Tow7i,  New 
York,  1853. 

^  Life  of  Lord  Lytton,  Vol.  II,  p.  275. 


174    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

boots,  clean  knives,  wear  plush,  all  your  life,  but 
don't  turn  literary  man.  Look  at  me.  I  am  the  first 
novelist  in  Europe.  I  have  ranged  with  eagle  wing 
over  the  wide  regions  of  literature,  and  perched  on 
every  eminence  in  its  turn.  I  have  gazed  with  eagle 
eye  on  the  sun  of  philosophy,  and  fathomed  the 
mysterious  depths  of  the  human  mind.  All  languages 
are  familiar  to  me,  all  thoughts  are  known  to  me,  all 
men  understood  by  me.  I  have  gathered  wisdom 
from  the  honeyed  lips  of  Plato,  as  we  wandered  in 
the  gardens  of  the  Academes — wisdom,  too,  from  the 
mouth  of  Job  Johnson,  as  we  smoked  our  'backy  in 
Seven  Dials.  Such  must  be  the  studies,  and  such  is 
the  mission,  in  this  world,  of  the  Poet-Philosopher. 
But  the  knowledge  is  only  emptiness  ;  the  initiation 
is  but  misery ;  the  initiated,  a  man  shunned  and 
banned  by  his  fellows.  O,"  said  Bullwig,  clasping 
his  hands,  and  throwing  his  fine  i's  up  to  the  chande- 
lier, "the  curse  of  Pwometheus  descends  upon  his 
wace.  Wath  and  punishment  pursue  them  from 
genewation  to  genewation  !  Wo  to  Genius,  the 
Heaven-sealer,  the  fire-stealer !  Wo,  and  thrice 
bitter  desolation  !  Earth  is  the  wock  on  which  Zeus, 
wemorseless,  stwetches  his  withing  victim — men,  the 
vultures  that  feed  and  fatten  on  him.  Ai,  Ai  !  it  is 
agony  eternal — gwoaning  and  solitawy  despair !  And 
you,  Yellowplush,  would  penetwate  these  mystewies; 
you  would  waise  the  awful  veil,  and  stand  in  the 
Twemendous  Pwesence.  Beware  as  you  value  your 
peace,  beware !  Withdraw,  wash  Neophyte !  for 
Heaven's  sake — O,  for  Heaven's  sake  !  " — here  he 
looked  round  with  agony — "give  me  a  glass  of 
bwandy-and-water  for  this  clawet  is  beginning  to 
disagwee  with  me."i 

Thackeray  might  belabour  Ainsworth,  Madame  Sand, 
Lytton,  and  the  rest  honestly  believing  "Spiridion," 
"  Eugene  Aram",  "Jack  Sheppard"  and  similar  works 
were  harmful ;  but  he  was  never  sparing  of  praise  for 

^  Mr.   Yellowplush' s  Aje-w. 


SCOTT   AND   DUMAS  175 

his  contemporaries  when  he  thought  it  deserved.  He 
wrote  enthusiastically  of  Cruikshank  and  Leech,  who 
might,  in  some  measure,  be  regarded  as  his  rivals, 
and  always  spoke  with  great  admiration  of  Doyle ; 
and,  both  in  his  writings  and  letters,  expressed,  not 
necessarily  unbounded,  but  certainly  not  too  strictly 
critical,  admiration  of  Macaulay  and  Washington 
Irving,  of  Tom  Hood  (whose  "Song  of  the  Shirt"  he 
declared  the  finest  lyric  ever  written),  of  Charles  Lever 
and  Charlotte  Bronte  ;  he  admired  Disraeli's  splendid 
talents,  and  praised  even  Lytton  for  the  good  example 
he  set  by  being  ** thoroughly  literate."  Of  Scott  he 
made  frequent  mention,  and  thought  "The  Bride  of 
Lammermoor  "  his  best  novel,  and  loved  "  Ivanhoe." 

As  for  Rebecca,  now  her  head  is  laid  upon  Ivan- 
hoe's  heart :  I  shall  not  ask  to  hear  what  she  is 
whispering,  or  describe  further  that  scene  of  meeting, 
though  I  declare  I  am  quite  affected  when  I  think 
of  it.  Indeed  I  have  thought  of  it  any  time  these 
five-and-twenty  years — ever  since,  as  a  boy  at  school, 
I  commenced  the  noble  study  of  novels — ever  since 
the  day  when,  lying  on  sunny  slopes  of  half-holidays, 
the  fair  chivalrous  figures  and  beautiful  shapes  of 
knights  and  ladies  were  visible  to  me — ever  since 
I  grew  to  love  Rebecca,  that  sweetest  creature  of  the 
poet's  fancy,  and  longed  to  see  her  righted.^ 

Next  to  Scott,  if  not,  indeed,  before  him,  in  the  list 
of  Thackeray's  heroes  came  Dumas,  whom,  to  his 
exceeding  delight,  he  had  met  at  the  house  of  Gudin 
the  painter.  "  Dumas  is  charming.  He  is  better  than 
Walter  Scott,"  he  said  enthusiastically  to  John  Esten 
Cooke.     "I   came  near  writing  a  book  on   the  same 

^  Rebecca  and  Roivena,  chap.  vii. 


176    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

subject,  '  Les  Trois  Mousquetaires,'  and  taking  Mon- 
sieur D'Artagnan  for  my  hero.  D'Artagnan  was  a  real 
character  of  the  age  of  Louis  XIV,  and  wrote  his  own 
'Memoires.'  I  remember  picking  up  a  dingy  copy 
of  them  on  an  old  bookstall  in  London,  price  sixpence, 
and  intended  to  make  something  of  it.  But  Dumas 
got  ahead  of  me — he  snaps  up  everything.  He  is 
wonderful  ! " 

Thackeray  was  always  happy  when  he  could  pay  a 
compliment  in  his  books  to  his  friends,  and  never  lost 
an  opportunity  to  do  so. 

The  young  Aja  came  for  a  pair  of  shoes,  and  his 
contortions  were  so  delightful  as  he  tried  them,  that 
I  remained  with  great  pleasure,  wishing  for  Leech 
to  be  at  hand  to  sketch  his  lordship  and  his  fat 
mamma,  who  sat  on  the  counter.^ 

There  should  have  been  a  poet  in  our  company  to 
describe  that  charming  little  bay  of  Glaucus,  into 
which  we  entered  on  the  26th  of  September  in  the 
first  steamboat  that  ever  disturbed  its  beautiful 
waters.  You  can't  put  down  in  prose  that  delight- 
ful episode  of  natural  poetry  ;  it  ought  to  be  done  in 
a  symphony,  full  of  sweet  melodies  and  swelling 
harmonies ;  or  sung  in  a  strain  of  clear  crystal 
iambics,  such  as  Milnes  knows  how  to  write.^ 

Allusion  has  already  been  made  to  Thackeray's  love 
for  the  humorous  writers  of  the  eighteenth  century, 
which  sprang  up  in  him  even  when  he  was  at  the 
Charterhouse  ;  and  though  in  his  lectures  on  them,  as 
he  was  careful  to  state,  it  was  of  the  men  and  their 
lives  rather  than  of  their  books  that  he  treated,  yet  here 
and  there  were  critical  remarks  worthy  of  notice. 
Swift,  he  admitted  reluctantly,  for  he  hated  the  man, 

J  Fro7n  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo,  chap.  vii.  -  Ibid.,  chap.  x. 


LAURENCE   STERNE  177 

possessed  a  surprising  humour,  noble,  just,  and 
honest  satire,  and  the  power  of  perfect  imagery  :  "the 
greatest  wit  of  all  times,"  "an  immense  genius"  ;  but 
it  is  obvious  that  of  all  the  writings  of  this  author  he 
preferred  the  "Journal  to  Stella,"  than  which,  he  de- 
clared, there  was  "  nothing  more  manly,  more  tender, 
more  exquisitely  touching."  He  could  not  refuse  to 
see  Sterne's  wit,  humour,  and  pathos,  but  he  dis- 
liked his  pose  :  "  he  used  to  blubber  perpetually  in 
his  study,  and  finding  his  tears  infectious,  and  that 
they  brought  him  a  great  popularity,  he  exercised  the 
lucrative  gift  of  weeping  ;  he  utilised  it,  and  cried 
on  every  occasion."  He  was  prejudiced  against  both 
these  writers,  and  in  a  letter  to  a  correspondent  who 
had  lent  him  some  Sterne  MSS.,  one  reason  may  be 
discovered  : 

I  am  sorry  that  reading  the  Brahmin's  letters  to 
his  Brahmine  did  not  increase  my  respect  for  the 
Reverend  Laurence  Sterne. 

In  his  printed  letters  there  is  one  (xcii.)  addressed 
to  Lady  P.  full  of  love  and  despair  for  my  lady,  and 

announcing  that  he  had  got  a  ticket  for  Miss 's 

benefit  that  night,  which  he  must  use  if  deprived  of 
the  superior  delight  of  seeing  Lady  P.  I  looked  in 
the  "  Dramatic  Register"  (I  think  is  the  name  of  the 
book)  to  find  what  lady  took  a  benefit  on  a  Tuesday, 
and  found  the  names  of  two,  one  at  Covent  Garden 
and  one  at  Drury  Lane  on  the  same  Tuesday  evening, 
and  no  other  Miss's  benefit  on  a  Tuesday  during 
the  season.  Miss  Poyntz,  I  think,  is  one  of  the 
names,  but  I'm  five  miles  from  the  book  as  I  write  to 
you,  and  forget  the  lady's  name  and  the  day. 

However,  on  the  day  Sterne  was  writing  to  Lady 

P.  and  going  to  Miss 's  benefit  he  is  dyinf^  in 

his  Journal  to  the  Brahmine — can't  eat,  has  the  Doc- 
tor, and  is  in  a  dreadful  way.     He  wasn't  dying  but 


178    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

lying,  I'm  afraid.  God  help  him ;  a  falser  and 
wickeder  man  it's  difficult  to  read  of.  Do  you  know 
the  accompanying  pamphlet  (my  friend  Mr.  Cooper 
gave  me  this  copy,  which  he  had  previously  sent  to 
the  Reform  Club,  and  has  since  given  the  Club 
another  copy)?  There  is  more  of  Yorick's  love- 
making  in  these  letters,  with  blasphemy  to  flavour 
the  compositions,  and  indications  of  a  scornful  un- 
belief. Of  course  any  man  is  welcome  to  believe  as 
he  likes  for  me  except  a  parson  ;  and  I  can't  help 
looking  upon  Swift  and  Sterne  as  a  couple  of  traitors 
and  renegades  (as  one  does  upon  Bonneval  or  poor 
Bem  the  other  day),  with  a  scornful  pity  for  them  in 
spite  of  all  their  genius  and  their  greatness. 

For  Congreve,  Wycherley,  Farquhar,  and  their  merry 
and  shameless  Comic  Muse  with  the  libertine  heroes 
and  the  wanton  heroines  he  had  no  liking.  **A  touch 
of  Steele's  tenderness  is  worth  all  Congreve's  finery  ; 
a  flash  of  Swift's  lightning,  a  beam  of  Addison's  pure 
sunshine,  and  his  tawdry  playhouse  taper  is  invisible." 
It  was  not  as  the  author  of  "Cato,"  nor  of  the  poem 
celebrating  the  victor  of  Blenheim  that  Addison 
attracted  him,  but  as  "a  Tatler  of  small  talk  and  a 
Spectator  of  Mankind."  "He  came  in  that  artificial  age, 
and  began  to  speak  with  his  noble,  natural  voice.  He 
came,  the  gentle  satirist,  who  hit  no  unfair  blow,  the 
kind  judge  who  castigated  only  in  smiling."  Thack- 
eray loved  Steele,  whom  he  declared  the  founder  of  senti- 
mental writing  in  English,  and  the  first  author  to  pay  a 
manly  homage  to  woman.  Naturalness  was  a  short  cut 
to  the  heart  of  the  author  of  "  Vanity  Fair,"  and  on 
this  ground  he  paid  tribute  to  Steele,  and  to  Goldsmith, 
with  his  simple  songs  of  love  and  beauty.  He  could 
not  too  highly  praise  "The  Deserted  Village",  "The 


\UtL    VuiUVL,    ['aAa4x    Vu    ^crl^    WiUv       ^yXiMH.  Vt   ^t**  Stl 

FACSIMILE    OF    THACKKRAY'S    HANDWRITING 

^  /rtA'f  "/  «  /(■/''<''-  /<'  /'.  "  '.  C7//'Av,  Scptcinlwy  21,  iS=;i.     From  the  original  in  the 
liritish  Miisiiiiii 


THE   EARLIER   NOVELISTS  179 

Vicar  of  Wakefield, "  and  the  two  famous  plays.  Besides 
Goldsmith,  his  favourite  poets  seem  to  have  been  Prior 
and  Gay:  ''sweet  lyric  singers,"  he  styled  them. 
Prior,  he  regarded  as  the  easiest,  the  richest,  the  most 
charmingly  humorous  of  English  lyrical  poets  ;  while 
Gay  charmed  him  by  the  force  of  simple  melody  and 
artless  ringing  laughter.  He  singled  out  the  six 
pastorals  called  the  "Shepherd's  Week"  and  the  bur- 
lesque poem  of  ''Trivia,"  and  remarked  that  "these 
are  to  poetry  what  charming  little  Dresden  figures 
are  to  sculpture  :  graceful,  minikin,  fantastic,  with  a 
certain  beauty  always  accompanying  them."  Pope 
he  unhesitatingly  ranked  highest  amongst  the  poets, 
brightest  among  the  English  wits  and  humorists,  and 
the  greatest  literary  artist  of  the  eighteenth  century. 
Before  Fielding  and  Smollett  he  bowed  low,  as  a 
subject  before  his  sovereign.  "Humphrey  Clinker" 
he  thought  the  most  amusing  story  written  since  the 
goodly  art  of  novel-writing  began,  and  he  pronounced 
"Peregrine  Pickle"  "excellent  for  its  liveliness  and 
spirit,  and  wonderful  for  its  atrocious  vulgarity."  He 
preferred  both  these  writers  to  Richardson,  though  he 
admitted  that  "  Clarissa"  had  one  of  the  best-managed 
surprises  he  had  read  ;  but  his  favourite  author  was, 
of  course.  Fielding,  who  may  be  looked  upon  as 
the  literary  godfather  of  his  famous  successor.  He 
naturally  does  not  think  "Tom  Jones"  a  virtuous 
character,  and  he  protests  against  the  author's  evident 
liking  and  admiration  for  his  hero,  but,  he  says, 

As  a  picture  of  manners,  the  novel  of  "  Tom 
Jones"  is  indeed  exquisite:  as  a  work  of  construc- 
tion quite  a  wonder :  the  by-play  of  wisdom  ;   the 


i8o    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

power  of  observation  ;  the  multiplied  felicitous  turns 
and  thoughts  ;  the  varied  character  of  the  great 
Comic  Epic, — keep  the  reader  in  a  perpetual  admira- 
tion and  curiosity.^  .  .  .  The  public  of  our  day  need 
scarcely  be  warned  that  if  they  are  to  pass  an  hour 
with  Fielding  they  will  find  him  continually  in  such 
low  company  ;  those,  therefore,  who  are  excessively 
squeamish  and  genteel  will  scornfully  keep  away 
from  him  ;  those  who  have  a  mind  to  forgive  a  little 
coarseness,  for  the  sake  of  one  of  the  honestest, 
manliest,  kindest  companions  in  the  world,  cannot, 
as  we  fancy,  find  a  better  than  Fielding,  or  get  so 
much  true  wit  and  shrewdness  from  any  other  writer 
of  our  language.^ 

It  cannot  be  contended  that  Thackeray  was  a  great 
critic.  Indeed  there  is  no  doubt  that,  as  a  rule,  he 
preferred  second-rate  books  of  the  first-class  to  the 
greatest.  For  instance,  while  as  a  matter  of  course  he 
admitted  that  Milton  was  a  great  poet,  he  added  that 
''  he  was  such  a  bore  that  no  one  could  read  him." 
Whatever  one  may  think  of  the  discernment  of  a  man 
who  says  that,  it  is  impossible  to  doubt  his  honesty. 
He  was  often  led  away  by  the  character  of  the  author 
whose  works  he  was  criticising.  Because  of  this  he 
disapproved  of  Swift  and  Sterne,  and  rather  grudgingly 
admitted  their  qualities  ;  but  he  greatly  praised  Pope, 
whom  he  loved  because  of  his  infirmity,  and  because 
of  the  love  the  poet  bore  his  mother.  His  judgments 
came  from  the  heart  rather  than  the  intellect,  and  it  was 
fortunate  when  these  coincided.  "St.  Charles,"  he 
said  to  Edward  FitzGerald,  in  a  third-floor  in  Charlotte 
Street,   putting  one  of  Charles   Lamb's  letters  to  his 

'  English  Humourists  of  ihc  Eighlcenth  Century. 

■  Review  of  Fielding's  Works  in  the  Times,  September  2,  1840. 


DISLIKES   SAD    ENDINGS  i8i 

forehead,    remembering   his   devotion   to   his   afflicted 
sister. 

I  hate  Juvenal  [he  wrote  to  James  Hannay,  when 
he  was  preparing  his  lectures  on  the  Humourists]. 
I  mean,  I  think  him  a  truculent  brute,  and  I  like 
Horace  better  than  you  do,  and  rate  Churchill  much 
lower  ;  and  as  for  Swift,  you  haven't  made  me  alter 
my  opinion.  I  admire,  or  rather  admit,  his  power  as 
much  as  you  do  ;  but  I  don't  admire  that  kind  of 
power  so  much  as  I  did  fifteen  years  ago,  or  twenty, 
shall  we  say?  Love  is  a  higher  intellectual  exercise 
than  Hatred  ;  and  when  you  get  one  or  two  more  of 
those  young  ones  you  write  so  pleasantly  about, 
you'll  come  over  to  the  side  of  the  kind  wags,  I 
think,  rather  than  the  cruel  ones.^ 

His  own  tastes  led  him  to  appreciate  those  books  in 
which  a  kindly  view  of  life  was  taken.  He  would  allow 
to  Flaubert  no  credit  for  *'  Madame  Bovary,"  which  he 
pronounced  a  bad  book  :  ''  it  is  a  heartless  cold-blooded 
study  of  the  downfall  and  degeneration  of  a  woman."  ^ 
For  that  sort  of  study,  however  excellent  artistically,  he 
had  no  admiration.  Nor  could  he  endure  books  that 
leave  the  reader  sad.  He  told  John  Esten  Cooke  he 
could  never  read  *' Don  Quixote"  with  pleasure,  his 
sympathy  for  the  knight  made  it  painful  to  him  ;  while 
stories  with  unhappy  endings  he  would  not  read.  He 
never  dared  to  re-read  **The  Pirate"  or  "The  Bride 
of  Lammermoor  "  or  '*  Kenilworth  ",  "  because  the  end 
is  unhappy,  and  people  die,  and  are  murdered  at  the 
end."  3 

^  James  Hannay  :  A  Short  Memoir  of  .  .  .   Thackeray,  p.  19. 
^  H.  Sutherland  Edwards :  Recollections,  p.  36, 
^  De  Juventute. 


i82    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

The  best  of  your  poems,  instead  of  making  me 
laugh,  had  quite  another  effect  [he  wrote  to  Horace 
Smith].  All  the  best  comic  stuff  so  affects  me. 
Sancho,  Falstaff,  even  Fielding  in  "Amelia." 


CHAPTER   XI 

THACKERAY  AND  THE  PUBLIC  (1846) 

Thackeray's  success  with  the  "  Yellowplush  Papers"  in  England  and 
America — his  opinion  of  "The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond" — and 
John  Sterling's  appreciation  of  that  story — Thackeray's  position  in 
the  literary  world  in  1843 — his  income — his  belief  in  his  gift  of  writ- 
ing— some  reasons  why  he  did  not  earlier  become  famous — his  use  of 
pseudonyms — his  best  work  not  published  in  book-form — he  runs 
counter  to  the  feeling  of  the  public — his  earlier  works  considered — 
the  "Yellowplush  Correspondence" — "Catherine" — "A  Shabby 
Genteel  Story" — the  "  Fitz-Boodle  Papers" — "Barry  Lyndon." 

WHEN   ''From  Cornhill  to  Grand  Cairo" 
appeared    in    January    1846,    Thackeray 
had  been  writing  for  about  eight  years, 
and  it  is  time  to  pause  and  consider  what 
was  his  position  at  this  time. 

At  the  outset  of  his  career  he  had  achieved  consider- 
able success  with  the  "Yellowplush  Correspondence," 
and  this  and  ''Major  Gahagan  "  (which  attracted  little 
or  no  attention  in  this  country)  were  at  once  pirated  in 
America,  where  the  books  circulated  widely.  His  work 
was  much  appreciated  there,  and  N.  P.  Willis,  then 
part  proprietor  of  the  New  York  Corsair,  coming  to 
London,  made  it  his  business  to  secure  Thackeray's 
services  for  the  weekly  paper.  "  I  have  engaged  a 
contributor  to  the  Corsair,"  Willis  wrote  to  his  co- 
editor,   T.   O.   Porter.      "Who  do  you  think?     The 

183 


i84    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

author  of  *  Yellowplush '  and  'Major  Gahagan.'  I 
have  mentioned  it  in  my  jottings,  that  our  readers  may 
know  all  about  it.  He  has  gone  to  Paris  and  will  write 
letters  from  there,  and  afterwards  from  London,  for  a 
guinea  a  close  cohtmn  of  the  Corsair — cheaper  than  I 
ever  did  anything  in  my  life.  I  will  see  that  he  is  paid 
for  a  while  to  see  how  you  like  him.  For  myself  I  think 
him  the  very  best  periodical  writer  alive.  He  is  a 
royal,  daring,  fine  creature,  too.  I  take  the  responsi- 
bility of  it."  It  will  be  seen  from  this  letter  that  Willis 
was  not  only  a  discerning  editor,  but  also  an  excellent 
man  of  business. 

The  favourable  start  made  by  Thackeray  was  not 
followed  up  by  him,  so  far,  at  least,  as  concerns  the 
public.  His  papers  on  art  and  his  reviews  of  books 
were  well  written,  trenchant,  and  amusing,  and  en- 
deared him  to  editors,  who  were  willing  to  accept  such 
work  from  him  ;  but  his  stories  did  not  find  so  much 
favour  in  their  eyes,  and  attracted  little  attention  from 
outsiders.  Speaking  from  the  point  of  view  of  an 
editor  anxious  to  place  before  his  readers  such  matter 
as  they  liked,  "  Catherine  "  was  not  a  success,  nor  "  A 
Shabby  Genteel  Story,"  nor  "The  Great  Hoggarty 
Diamond,"  which  Blackwood'' s  Magazine  would  not 
have,  and  which  Eraser  would  only  accept  for  Regina 
if  curtailed.  "The  best  thing  I  ever  wrote,"  said 
Thackeray  of  this  story,  on  the  eve  of  the  appearance  of 
"Vanity  Fair."  The  merits  of  "The  Great  Hoggarty 
Diamond  "  were  overlooked  by  the  public,  which  may 
have  found  it  pleasant  reading,  but  lacked  discernment 
to  see  how  good  it  was.  One  man,  however,  found  in 
it  promise  of  the  author's  future  greatness:    "I   have 


1846]  THACKERAY    IN    1843  185 

seen  no  new  book,  but  am  reading  your  last,"  John 
Sterling  wrote  to  his  mother.  "  I  got  hold  of  the  two 
first  numbers  of  'The  Hoggarty  Diamond,'  and  read 
them  with  extreme  delight.  What  is  there  better  in 
Fielding  or  Goldsmith?  The  man  is  a  true  genius, 
and  with  quiet  comfort  might  produce  masterpieces 
which  would  last  as  long  as  any  we  have,  and  delight 
millions  of  unborn  readers.  There  is  more  truth  in 
nature  in  one  of  those  papers,  than  in  all  Dickens' 
novels  put  together."  All  of  which  says  a  great 
deal  for  the  critical  faculty  of  the  writer,  but  unfor- 
tunately could  do  nothing  to  increase  Thackeray's 
popularity. 

Thackeray's  position  among  his  literary  brethren  at 
this  time  was  little  better  than  the  place  he  occupied  in 
the  public  estimation.  When  he  was  in  Ireland,  he 
endeavoured  to  persuade  Lever,  for  whom  he  had 
a  sincere  regard,  to  leave  Dublin,  where  he  was 
surrounded  by  third-rate  writers,  and  to  come  to 
London,  where  he  would  be  able  to  make  much  more 
money.  So  much  advantage,  indeed,  did  Thackeray 
think  his  fellow  -  novelist  would  derive  from  his 
change  of  residence,  that  he  backed  his  advice  by 
offers  of  pecuniary  and  other  assistance,  if  such  were 
needed.  Lever,  however,  for  various  reasons,  declined 
his  proposal,  and  afterwards  told  a  friend  that  Thackeray 
was  the  most  good-natured  man  in  the  world,  '*  but 
that  help  from  him  would  be  worse  than  no  help  at 
all.  .  .  .  He  (Thackeray)  was  like  a  man  struggling 
to  keep  his  head  above  water  .  .  .  who  offers  to  teach 
his  friend  to  swim."  Lever  also  added  that  Thackeray 
"would  write  for  anything  and  about  anything,  and 


i86    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

had  so  lost  himself  that  his  status  in  London  was  not 
good."i 

There  was  much  truth  in  Lever's  remark,  for 
Thackeray  in  those  days  was,  apart  from  the  quality 
of  his  work,  nothing  more  nor  less  than  a  publisher's 
hack.  From  the  outset,  however,  he  was  successful 
in  making  money,  and  in  1838  was  doing  well 
enough  to  refuse  a  journalistic  post  worth  ^350  a 
year.  Few  young  men  who  embark  in  the  literary 
calling  make  so  much,  or  see  their  way  so  clear,  in  the 
first  or  second  year  of  their  apprenticeship,  as  not  to  be 
allured  by  the  chance  of  an  assured  ;^35o  a  year. 
Thackeray,  then,  was  making  so  much  as  this  within 
a  year  of  his  settling  in  London,  and,  since  his  output 
increased,  considerably  more  than  this  in  the  following 
years  ;  but  he  wanted  money,  and  a  good  deal  of  it. 
He  had  no  house  to  keep  up,  owing  to  the  unfortunate 
illness  of  his  wife  ;  but  he  had  to  pay  for  that  lady's 
accommodation  elsewhere,  and  for  his  girls'  education, 
as  well  as  to  put  aside  something  for  the  future  of  those 
dependent  on  him  ;  and  he  had  also,  there  is  reason  to 
believe,  to  contribute  to  the  support  of  his  mother  and 
stepfather. 

There  is  a  comfort  to  think  that,  however  other 
works  and  masterpieces  bearing  my  humble  name 
have  been  received  by  the  public,  namely,  with  what 
I  cannot  but  think  (and  future  ages  will,  I  have  no 
doubt,  pronounce)  to  be  unmerited  obloquy  and 
inattention,  the  present  article,  at  least,  which  I 
address  to  you  through  the  public  prints,  will  be 
read  by  every  one  of  the  numerous  readers  of  this 
Magazine.      What   a   quantity   of    writings   of    the 

^  Major  Frank  Dwyer,  in  W,  Fitzpatrick  :  Life  of  Charles  Lever. 


1846]  "BARMECIDE   BANQUETS"  187 

same  hand  have  you,  my  dear  friend,  pored  over  ! 
How  much  delicate  wit,  profound  philosophy  (lurking 
hid  under  harlequin's  black  mask  and  spangled 
jacket,  nay,  under  clown's  white  lead  and  vermilion) 
— how  many  quiet  wells  of  deep,  gushing  pathos, 
have  you  failed  to  remark  as  you  hurried  through 
those  modest  pages,  for  which  the  author  himself 
here  makes  an  apology  ! — not  that  I  quarrel  with  my 
lot,  or  rebel  against  that  meanest  of  all  martyrdoms, 
indifference,  with  which  a  callous  age  has  visited  me — 
not  that  I  complain  because  I  am  not  appreciated  by 
the  present  century — no,  no  ! — he  who  lives  at  this 
time  ought  to  know  better  than  to  be  vexed  by  its 
treatment  of  him — he  who  pines  because  Smith  or 
Snooks  doesn't  appreciate  him,  has  a  poor,  puny 
vein  of  endurance,  and  pays  those  two  personages 
too  much  honour. 

This  passage  in  ''Barmecide  Banquets,"^  though 
apparently  written  in  jocular  strain,  may  be  taken  as  a 
fairly  accurate  description  of  Thackeray's  feelings  in 
1845.  He  was  disappointed  that  the  merits  of  his  work 
had  not  been  discovered,  and  rather  sad  and  perhaps  a 
little  angry  that  he  was  spoken  of  as  only  a  clever 
writer  for  the  periodicals.  *'  I  can  suit  the  magazines, 
but  I  can't  suit  the  public,  be  hanged  to  them  !  "  he 
exclaimed,  with  some  bitterness,  as,  after  the  failure  of 
"The  Paris  Sketch  Book"  to  attract  notice,  he  re- 
turned to  his  pot-boilers. 

Poor  fellows  of  the  pen  and  pencil  !  We  must 
live.  The  public  likes  light  literature,  and  we  write 
it.  Here  am  I  writing  magazine  jokes  and  follies, 
and  why?  Because  the  public  likes  such,  and  will 
purchase  no  other. ^ 

1  Fraser's  Magazine^  November  1845. 
^  May  Gambols. 


i88    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

Nevertheless,  although  at  the  moment  he  "can't  suit 
the  public,  be  hanged  to  them,"  Thackeray  undoubt- 
edly felt  that  his  day  must  come  sooner  or  later  (only  it 
seemed  more  likely  to  be  later  than  sooner),  for  he  was 
confident  of  his  genius,  though  perhaps  ignorant  of  its 
extent.  His  lightest  sketches,  even  his  airiest  criti- 
cisms, have  a  ring  about  them  that  shows  he  knew 
his  power,  and  in  "  Barry  Lyndon "  there  cannot 
be  detected  a  trace  of  mistrust  in  his  capabilities : 
throughout  that  romance  one  feels  the  hand  of  the 
artist  working  with  absolute  confidence  at  his  first  great 
masterpiece. 

Ainsworth  published  ''Rookwood"  when  he  was 
twenty-nine  ;  Disraeli  was  famous  as  the  author  of 
''Vivian  Grey"  at  two-and-twenty,  and,  before  he  was 
eleven  years  older,  had  written  "The  Young  Duke," 
"  Contarini  Fleming",  "Alroy",  "  Henrietta  Temple  " 
and  "  Venetia  "  ;  Albert  Smith  was  only  twenty-eight 
when  he  made  his  mark  with  "The  Adventures  of  Mr. 
Ledbury";  Dickens  had  written  "Sketches  by  Boz" 
when  he  was  four-and-twenty,  "Pickwick"  a  year  later, 
and  "Oliver  Twist",  "Nicholas  Nickleby",  "  The  Old 
Curiosity  Shop",  "  Barnaby  Rudge  "  and  "American 
Notes  "  before  he  was  thirty.  Thackeray  in  his  thirty- 
sixth  year  was  unknown  beyond  the  narrow  circle  of 
men  whose  business  it  was  to  search  for  talent  in  the 
pages  of  magazines  or  reviews.  What  was  the  reason 
of  this?  Certainly  it  was  not  because  his  genius  took 
longer  to  mature  than  that  of  the  writers  just  men- 
tioned— though,  of  course,  the  fact  that  at  first  he 
looked  to  art  rather  than  to  letters  to  provide  him  with 
a  career  gave  his  literary  brethren  a  few  years'  start. 


1846]  TROLLOPE   ON    THACKERAY  189 

Anthony  Trollope  in  his  monograph  on  Thackeray 
endeavoured  to  solve  the  problem.  He  relates  how 
Thackeray  had  a  marked  want  of  assurance  (''I  can 
fancy,"  Trollope  says,  "that,  as  the  sheets  went  from 
him  every  day,  he  told  himself,  with  regard  to  every 
sheet,  that  it  was  a  failure.  Dickens  was  quite  sure  of 
his  sheet");  how  he  was  '' unsteadfast,  idle,  change- 
able of  purpose,  aware  of  his  own  intellect,  but  not 
trusting  it";  and,  lastly,  how  "no  man  ever  failed 
more  than  he  to  put  his  best  foot  foremost."  Now,  this 
explanation  is,  on  the  face  of  it,  most  unconvincing, 
and,  what  is  far  worse,  misleading.  Though  Dickens, 
and  Trollope  also,  we  may  be  certain,  felt  quite  sure  of 
their  sheets,  this  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  question — 
though  if  it  has,  or  even  if  it  has  not,  it  is  something 
Thackeray  never  overcame.  But  then,  perhaps,  this 
dissatisfaction  with  his  work  was  because,  besides  being 
a  novelist,  Thackeray  was  an  artist  to  his  finger-tips  ; 
and  because,  while  lesser  men  might  turn  away  from  their 
completed  work  with  a  self-satisfied  smile,  he  would 
glance  at  his  pages  mournfully,  re-read  them,  perhaps, 
and  think,  not  whether  the  public  would  like  them,  but 
how  far  from  perfect  in  his  eyes  they  were.  Indeed, 
all  his  life  he  was  conscious  that  his  work  might  be 
improved  ;  and  it  was  with  a  sigh  that  he  sent  the 
sheets  to  the  printer.  The  charge  of  idleness  may  be 
dismissed,  if  actual  output  is  meant,  for  Thackeray's 
work  during  the  thirty  years  he  devoted  to  letters 
is  more  than  sufficient.  If  intellectual  idleness  is 
meant,  however,  then  there  is  something  to  be  said  for 
Trollope's  view  ;  but  of  this  aspect  of  the  case  some- 
thing will  be  said  in  a  later  chapter. 


I90    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

There  are,  however,  good  and  sufficient  reasons  to 
account  for  the  lack  of  appreciation  from  which  Thack- 
eray suffered  until  his  thirty-eighth  year :  firstly,  he 
had  not  given  the  public  a  fair  chance  to  discover  him; 
secondly,  he  had  not  yet  produced  much  work  that 
appealed  to  the  general  reader. 

To  prove  the  truth  of  the  first  statement,  that  Thack- 
eray had  not  given  the  public  a  fair  chance  to  discover 
him,  it  is  only  necessary  to  refer  to  the  number  of 
pseudonyms  he  employed.  Had  he  elected  always  to 
write  over  any  one  of  them,  say,  over  the  signature  of 
"Titmarsh,"  this  would  have  been  another  matter: 
"  Titmarsh  "  would  have  been  as  well  known  as  Thack- 
eray should  have  been  ;  but  this  was  not  the  case. 
"Michael  Angelo  Titmarsh"  wrote  reviews  and  short 
stories,  and  also  "The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond"; 
"  Yellowplush  "  wrote  the  "  Correspondence  "  ;  "  Ikey 
Solomons"  indited  "Catherine";  "  Major  Gahagan  " 
related  his  own  "Tremendous  Adventures",  "The 
Professor"  and  "Sultan  Stork,"  and  supplied  "Mr. 
Wagstaff"  with  material  for  one  of  the  four  tales 
credited  to  that  gentleman;  and  "  Fitz-Boodle "  con- 
tributed his  "Confessions",  "Professions",  "Men's 
Wives,"  and  a  story  no  less  important  than  "Barry 
Lyndon." 

Besides,  much  of  Thackeray's  work  appeared 
anonymously  in  the  periodicals  :  and  his  contributions 
to  Punch  were  signed  by  all  manners  of  fantastic 
pseudonyms — to  name  a  few,  "Miss  Tickletoby," 
"Spec",  "Our  Fat  Contributor",  "Paul  Pindar," 
"The  Mulligan",  "  Punch's  Commissioner ",  "  Fitz- 
Jeames  de  la  Pluche  ",  "  Frederick  Haltamont  de  Mont- 


1846]  PSEUDONYMS  191 

morency."^  His  own  name  had  been  appended  only 
to  such  unimportant  trifles  as  ''  Captain  Rook  and  Mr. 
Pigeon",  "The  Fashionable  Authoress",  and  "Going 
to  see  a  man  hanged."  This,  it  will  be  seen,  rendered 
it  difficult  even  for  the  initiated  to  recognise  all  his 
work,  and  to  the  general  reader  each  name  suggested 
a  different  author.  Thackeray  has  explained  the  ne- 
cessity that  drove  him  to  the  use  of  so  many  710ms- 
de-guerre. 

It  may  so  happen  to  a  literary  man  that  the  stipend 
which  he  receives  from  one  publication  is  not 
sufficient  to  boil  his  family  pot,  and  that  he  must 
write  in  some  other  quarter.  If  Brown  writes  articles 
in  the  daily  papers,  and  articles  in  the  weekly  and 
monthly  periodicals  too,  and  signs  the  same,  he  surely 
weakens  his  force  by  extending  his  line.  It  would 
be  better  for  him  to  write  incognito,  than  to  placard 
his  name  in  so  many  quarters — as  actors  understand, 
who  do  not  perform  in  too  many  pieces  on  the  same 
night ;  and  as  painters,  who  know  it  is  not  worth 
their  while  to  exhibit  more  than  a  certain  number 
of  pictures." 

It  must  not  be  forgotten,  too,  that  the  only  books  that 
Thackeray  had  published  were  "The  Paris  Sketch 
Book",  "The  Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon  ",  "Comic 
Tales  and  Sketches",  "The  Irish  Sketch  Book",  and 
"  From  Cornhill  to  Cairo  " — all  of  them  good  to  read, 
but  not  one  of  them  showing  Thackeray  at  his  best : 

^  After  the  beginning-  of  1846  he  used  the  following,  among  other, 
signatures  in  Punch:  "  PleacemanX  ",  "  Fitzroy  Clarence  ",  "Hibernis 
Hibernior",  "  Leonitus  Androcles  Hugglestone ",  "John  Corks", 
"Folkestone  Canterbury",  "Brown  the  Elder",  "Mr.  Snob",  "Solo- 
mon Pacifico",  "Goliah  Muff",  "  Gobemouche "  and  "  Thaddeus 
Molony." 

2  Prose r  Papers — On  the  Press  and  the  Public, 


192    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

indeed,  to-day,  when  his  genius  is  recognised,  these 
volumes  are  among  the  least  read  of  his  writings. 
"The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond  "and  "Barry  Lyndon," 
the  best  of  Thackeray's  early  work,  had  appeared  only 
in  Eraser's  Magazine^  and  it  cannot  be  denied  that  even 
modern  readers,  not  specially  critical,  who  know  the 
value  of  these  stories,  would  not  fully  appreciate  their 
merits,  if  they  were  to  peruse  them,  one  in  four,  the 
other  in  a  dozen,  monthly  instalments.  This  objection, 
it  is  true,  is  somewhat  discounted  in  the  case  of  the 
"Snob  Papers,"  as  they  might,  without  losing  their 
charm,  indeed  perhaps  with  advantage,  be  read  singly, 
being  really  only  so  many  units,  bound  together  at  the 
fountain  head.  But  this  does  not  weaken  the  argument, 
for  who,  among  the  public,  knew  that  the  Snobographer 
was  "Titmarsh"  and  "  Fitz-Boodle "  and  "Yellow- 
plush"? 

It  is  not  to  be  denied  [Thackeray  wrote,  realising 
the  truth  of  this]  that  men  of  signal  ability  will  write 
for  years  in  papers  and  perish  unknown — and  in  so 
far  their  lot  is  a  hard  one  :  and  the  chances  of  life 
are  against  them.  It  is  hard  upon  a  man,  with 
whose  work  the  whole  town  is  ringing,  that  not  a 
soul  should  know  or  care  who  is  the  author  who  so 
delights  the  public.^ 

The  second  point,  that  Thackeray's  work  until  the 
appearance  of  "The  Snobs  of  England"  would  not 
have  greatly  attracted  the  public,  is  best  approached 
by  assuming  that  everything  he  had  written  was  known 
to  be  from  his  pen.  In  this  case  there  would  have  been 
a  few  more  to  join  with  Carlyle  and  Sterling  in  appre- 

^  Proser  Papers — Oti  the  Press  and  the  Public. 


1846]  ON   POPULAR   NOVELS  193 

ciation,    but,    it   is    contended,    the    vast    majority   of 
readers  would  have  been  just  as  neglectful. 

One  important  reason  for  this  is  that,  while  most  of 
his  contemporaries  appealed  to  the  gallery,  and  on 
occasions  were  not  above  playing  to  it,  Thackeray,  so 
far  from  lowering  himself  to  the  level  of  the  public, 
held  it  the  duty  of  the  artist  to  educate  it  to  his  own 
intellectual  level — a  performance  painfully  slow  and 
not  at  all  remunerative  to  the  tutor.  Apart  from  the 
high  intellectual  level  in  his  writings,  nothing  would 
induce  him  to  abate  one  jot  of  his  prejudices  to  suit  the 
taste  of  the  public,  though  no  one  knew  better  what 
would  suit  the  majority  of  novel-readers.^ 

I  suppose  as  long  as  novels  last,  and  authors  aim 
at  interesting  their  public,  there  must  always  be  in 
the  story  a  virtuous  and  gallant  hero,  a  wicked 
monster,  his  opposite,  and  a  pretty  girl  who  finds 
a  champion :  bravery  and  virtue  conquer  beauty, 
and  vice,  after  seeming  to  triumph  through  a  certain 
number  of  pages,  is  sure  to  be  discomfited  in  the  last 
volume,  when  justice  overtakes  him,  and  honest  folks 
come  by  their  own.  There  never  was  perhaps  a 
greatly  popular  story  but  this  simple  plot  was 
carried  through  it :  mere  satiric  wit  is  addressed  to  a 
class  of  readers  quite  different  to  those  simple  souls 
who  laugh  and  weep  over  the  novel.  I  fancy  very 
few  ladies  indeed  could  be  brought  to  like  '' Gulliver" 
heartily,  and  (putting  the  coarseness  and  difference 
of  manners  out  of  the  question)  to  relish  the  wonder- 
ful satire  of  "Jonathan  Wild.''^ 

Yet,  knowing  this,  and  anxious  as  he  was  to  obtain 
the  approbation  of  his  female  readers,  Thackeray 
bravely  and  deliberately  continued  in  his  own  way, 

^  Lectures  on  the  English  Humourists, 
I.— O 


194  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1846 
preaching  his  philosophy,  and  indulging  his  satiric 
humour :  even  the  finest  work  he  produced  before 
** Vanity  Fair"  must  be  included  in  the  same  class  as 
"Jonathan  Wild,"  a  work  that  never  has  been,  and  never 
will  be,  popular  with  the  general  reader.  When  a  critic 
accuses  him — as  some  few  still  do — of  having  preached 
his  cynical  philosophy  for  profit,  let  him  consider  how 
much  more  profitable  it  would  have  been  for  Thackeray 
to  write  in  the  style  of  Bulwer,  or  Lever,  or  Disraeli,  as 
he  has  so  clearly  shown  he  could  have  done.  To  give 
an  example :  What  success  might  probably  have  re- 
warded "The  Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon"  had  he 
written  to  please  the  public,  instead  of  presenting  the 
work  to  a  hero-loving  nation  in  a  form  that  he  knew 
ran  counter  to  the  feelings  of  the  book-buyers?  From 
that  volume,  read  this  extract,  in  which  is  indicated 
Thackeray's  attitude  from  the  day  he  began  to  write 
until  he  lay  down  the  pen  for  the  last  time. 

I  feel  that  you  are  angry.  I  can  see  from  here  the 
pouting  of  your  lips,  and  know  what  you  are  going 
to  say.  You  are  going  to  say,  "  I  will  read  no  more 
of  this  Mr.  Titmarsh.  There  is  no  subject,  however 
solemn,  but  he  treats  it  with  flippant  irreverence, 
and  no  character,  however  great,  at  whom  he  does 
not  sneer."  Ah,  my  dear,  you  are  young  now  and 
enthusiastic;  and  your  Titmarsh  is  old,  very  old,  sad, 
and  grey-headed.  I  have  seen  a  poor  mother  buy  a 
halfpenny  wreath  at  the  gate  of  Montmartre  burying- 
ground,  and  go  with  it  to  her  little  child's  grave, 
and  hang  it  there  over  the  humble  little  stone  ;  and 
if  ever  you  saw  me  scorn  the  mean  offering  of  the 
poor  shabby  creature,  I  will  give  you  leave  to  be  as 
angry  as  you  will.  .  .  .  Something  great  and  good 
must  have  been  in  this  man  (Napoleon),  something 
living  and  kindly,  that  has  kept  his  name  so  cherished 


1846]  "MAJOR   GAHAGAN"  195 

in  the  popular  memory,  and  gained  him  such  lasting 
reverence  and  affection.  But,  Madam,  one  may  re- 
spect the  dead  without  feeling  awestricken  at  the 
plumes  of  the  hearse  ;  and  I  see  no  reason  why  one 
should  sympathise  with  the  train  of  mules  and 
undertakers,  however  deep  may  be  their  mourning.^ 

The  publication  of  ''Vanity  Fair"  may  be  regarded 
as  bringing  to  a  close  the  first  part  of  Thackeray's 
literary  career,  for  the  appearance  of  that  book  is  the 
actual  line  of  division  drawn  between  the  bright, 
humorous,  but  unrecognised,  writer  for  the  magazines 
and  the  successful  novelist.  Putting  aside  his  reviews 
of  books  and  paintings  as  well  as  his  short  stories,  there 
remain  for  consideration,  as  the  basis  upon  which  his 
earlier  reputation  was  founded,  the  "  Yellowplush  Cor- 
respondence ",  "  Major  Gahagan  ",  *'  Catherine  ",  *'  A 
Shabby  Genteel  Story",  ''The  Great  Hoggarty  Dia- 
mond", the  "  Fitz-Boodle  Papers",  including  "  Men's 
Wives"  and  "  Barry  Lyndon." 

With  the  exception  of  "  Major  Gahagan,"  a  delight- 
ful extravaganza,  and  far  more  amusing  than  "Mun- 
chausen," there  is  not  another  quite  pleasant  story. 
They  are  all  wonderfully  clever ;  the  literary  merit  is 
astonishing  :  the  style  is  mature,  the  word-pictures  are 
delightful,  and  there  are  charming  touches  and  beautiful 
tender  pictures ;  but  the  predominant  feature  is  in- 
telligence. When  has  the  great  reading  public  admired 
a  book  only  because  it  is  intellectual  ?  It  must  be 
admitted  that  the  public  is  right  not  wholly  to  admire 
such,  for  it  is  a  truism  that  a  story  which  suggests 
chiefly    the    cleverness,    the    wit,    and    the    brilliancy 

^  The  Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon :  Letter  II. 


I 


196    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

of  the  writer  is  not  a  complete  success :  it  shows 
there  is  something  wanting  in  the  story.  Readers  ask 
more  than  this  ;  and  the  taste  which  demands  that  the 
writer's  genius  shall  not  be  thought  of  until  the  book  is 
laid  down,  finished,  is  quite  sound. 

There  can  be  no  doubt  that  for  some  of  these  early 
works  Thackeray  drew  upon  some  of  his  own  unhappy 
experiences ;  and  these  latter,  together  with  the  cyni- 
cism affected  by  most  young  men,  give  the  stories 
a  certain  harshness  that  makes  them  compare  unfavour- 
ably with  his  more  mature  productions.  His  purpose 
was  honest :  he  fought  against  snobbishness  and  vul- 
garity, against  gambling,  against  swindling  company- 
promoters,  against  the  "Jack  Sheppard"  class  of  novels 
— indeed,  against  everything  that  did  not  appeal  to  him 
as  simple  and  honourable.  But  h6  did  not  select  his 
weapons  carefully ;  he  fought  to  the  death  with  the 
button  off  the  foil,  and  it  is  a  fact  that  many  of  the 
principal  characters  in  his  early  books  are  swindlers, 
scoundrels,  hypocrites,  or  fools. 

Yellowplush,  taken  from  the  gutter,  sees  no  reason 
why  he  should  not  listen  at  keyholes,  read  his  master's 
letters,  pry  into  his  private  affairs,  or  do  a  hundred 
other  dirty  actions.  He  has  no  more  than  a  swiftly 
passing  pang  of  remorse  when,  for  a  bank-note,  he 
sells  the  master,  who,  with  all  his  faults,  has  been  too 
good  to  him.  All  the  people  he  knows  do  things  of 
this  sort,  and  he  sees  no  cause  for  shame.  Then  comes 
the  picture  of  the  Shum  family's  wretched  life, — the 
cowardly  husband,  the  bullying  wife,  the  objectionable 
daughter,  though  out  of  the  gloom  looms  Altamont, 
a  good  fellow,  and  the  rather  lovable  Mary.     Look  at 


1846]  "YELLOWPLUSH   CORRESPONDENCE"  197 

the  actors  in  the  Deuceace  tragedy — for  tragedy  it  is 
undoubtedly :  the  scamp  Yellowplush,  the  sharper 
Blewitt,  the  silly  and  snobbish  Dawkins,  the  revenge-, 
ful  Lady  Griffin,  the  insignificant  Jemima,  the  terrible 
Earl,  Deuceace  himself,  card-sharper,  swindler,  fortune- 
hunter.  Only  the  foolish  Matilda  remains,  and  for  her 
loyalty  much  may  be  forgiven  her:  "My  Lord,  my 
place  is  with  htm.'^  The  moral,  of  course,  is  that 
roguery  comes  to  a  bad  end.  But  the  retribution  that 
falls  upon  Deuceace  is  planned  by  his  father ;  and  this 
occasions  a  revulsion  of  feeling  which  causes  the 
sympathy  to  be  transferred  to  the  swindler  until  nearly 
the  end — the  most  sensational  Thackeray  ever  wrote. 
There  is  nothing  in  his  works  so  terrible,  except  the 
scenes  between  the  Campaigner  and  Colonel  Newcome. 
The  naturalness  of  the  *'  Yellowplush  Correspondence  " 
is  its  greatest  merit.  Perhaps  its  chief  fault  against 
nature  is  that  so  many  unpleasant  people  could  scarcely 
be  found  together.  *'I  really  don't  know  where  I  get 
all  these  rascals  for  my  books,"  the  author  said.  "I 
have  certainly  never  lived  with  such  people." 

In  "Catherine,"  the  history  of  jail-birds,  told  by 
one  of  them,  virtuous  folk  cannot  be  expected.  Mrs. 
Cat,  Brock,  Galgenstein,  Thomas  Billings,  John  Hayes, 
Mrs.  Scare,  and  Ensign  Macshane,  in  their  several 
ways,  are  as  bad  as  bad  can  be.  So  vicious  are  they, 
indeed,  that  the  reader  is  sorry  for  Catherine  :  in  such 
company  she  could  hardly  be  other  than  she  is.  It 
must  not  be  forgotten,  however,  that  "Catherine"  was 
a  satire  on  the  "  Newgate  Novels." 

"A  Shabby  Genteel  Story,"  which  shows  unmis- 
takable signs  of  the  author's  development,  presents 


198    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

another  group  of  objectionable  people.  It  is,  perhaps, 
the  most  displeasing,  though  certainly  not  the  least 
clever,  of  all  the  earlier  tales.  It  opens  with  a  descrip- 
tion of  Margate  lodging-house  society ;  and  concludes 
with  the  entrapping  into  a  mock  marriage  of  a  loving, 
trusting  girl,  the  family  Cinderella.  Mr.  Gann,  a 
ruined  tradesman,  drunk  three  nights  a  week  with 
liquor  imbibed  at  the  ''Bag  o'  Nails";  Mrs.  Gann, 
a  virago  ;  the  Misses  Macarty,  her  two  daughters  by 
a  first  marriage,  shrews,  with  genteel  pretensions ;  the 
tuft-hunting  scoundrel,  Brandon  ;  and  the  blackguard 
Cinqbars  are  the  dramatis  personce; — the  pleasantest 
character  depicted  is  that  of  the  honest  but  vulgar 
Fitch. 

It  is  a  great  relief  to  turn  to  ''The  Great  Hoggarty 
Diamond,"  for  at  last  on  Thackeray's  literary  horizon, 
though  still  outnumbered  by  hypocrites  and  snobs, 
good  simple  people  are  sighted.  In  the  story  are  a 
dreadful  aunt  and  a  swindling  company-promoter  ;  but 
pathos  and  tenderness  are  to  be  noted,  especially  in 
the  handling  of  Sam's  mother  and  wife  ;  and  the  effect 
on  the  parents  of  the  death  of  a  child  is  beautifully  and 
reverently  described. 

Fitz-Boodle,  however,  is  undoubtedly  a  humorist ; 
and  in  his  "Confessions"  are  many  touches  suggest- 
ing the  maturer  Thackeray.  He  is  a  good-hearted 
scamp,  and  amusing  enough.  His  love-affairs  are  well 
told,  and  though  Minna  Lowe  is  a  little  wretch  per- 
haps she  was  forced  to  be  mean  by  her  father  and 
her  fiance,  scoundrels  both  ;  yet  Dorothea,  silly,  sweet 
Dorothea,  and  that  sketch  for  Blanche  Amory,  Ottilia, 
are  pleasant  and  interesting.     Certainly  they  are  all 


i846]  "THE   FITZ-BOODLE   PAPERS"  199 

three  very  real.  Most  of  us  have  met  Dorothea  and 
Ottilia,  though  perhaps  our  Ottilias  have  not  over- 
eaten themselves — some  of  us  have  known  Minnas  too. 
But  Fitz-Boodle  cannot  be  forgiven  for  writing  those 
scandalous  chronicles  of  his  friends'  private  lives — 
''  Men's  Wives."  One  of  these  is  the  story  of  a  heart- 
less coquette  and  a  brother's  vengeance,  ''The 's 

(Executioner's)  Wife,"  but  the  others  tell  of  mean 
lives.  The  scoundrel  Walker,  the  blackguard  Boro- 
ski,  the  humbug  Sir  George,  the  foolish  Ravenswing 
(though  she  improves  with  age),  the  dragon-like  Mrs. 
Berry,  and  the  selfish,  vain,  snobbish,  and  terribly 
vulgar  Mrs.  Dennis  Haggarty — the  history  of  Dennis 
is  a  tragedy  second  only  to  that  of  Deuceace — are  so 
many  people  whom  one  would  rather  not  know,  and  of 
whom  one  would  certainly  rather  not  read. 

At  last  comes  ''Barry  Lyndon,"  the  greatest  of  all 
these  stories,  and  the  first  in  which  the  author's  genius 
shines  unfettered. 

In  that  strange  apologue,  Jonathan  Wild  [Thack- 
eray said  in  his  lecture  on  Fielding],  the  author 
takes  for  a  hero  the  greatest  rascal,  coward,  traitor, 
tyrant,  hypocrite,  that  his  wit  and  experience,  both 
large  in  this  matter,  could  enable  him  to  devise  or 
depict ;  he  accompanies  this  villain  through  all  the 
transactions  of  his  life,  with  a  grinning  deference 
and  a  wonderful  mock  respect,  and  doesn't  leave  him 
till  he  is  dangling  at  the  gallows,  when  the  satirist 
makes  him  a  low  bow  and  wishes  the  scoundrel 
good-day. 

This  is  what  Thackeray  has  done  in  "Barry  Lyndon," 
only  he  lets  his  scoundrel  die  of  delirium  tremens  in  the 
nineteenth  year  of  his  residence  in  the  Fleet  prison,  and 


20O    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1846 

by  a  most  brilliant  stroke  of  genius  makes  Barry  in  all 
good  faith  tell  the  story  of  his  own  adventures.  Not  so 
good  or  so  pure  as  ''The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond" 
is  ''Barry  Lyndon,"  but  how  much  grander  a  con- 
ception !  The  humour,  the  satire,  the  remorseless 
irony — read  the  speech  where  Barry  defends  cheating 
at  cards — the  pictures  of  life,  the  varied  drmnatis  per- 
sonce^  place  it  not  far  below  "Esmond"  itself  in  the 
list  of  Thackeray's  works.  There  is  no  short  story  in 
the  language  more  artistically  beautiful  than  "The 
Princess's  Tragedy."  But  just  as  "Jonathan  Wild" 
is  the  most  neglected  of  Fielding's  works,  so  "Barry 
Lyndon  "  is  the  least  read  of  all  Thackeray's.  Work 
of  genius  though  it  be,  it  is  an  unpleasant  story,  as  its 
author  fully  realised.  "  You  need  not  read  it,"  he  said 
to  his  eldest  daughter  ;  "you  would  not  like  it." 

"Wherever  shines  the  sun,  you  are  sure  to  find 
Folly  basking  in  it.  Knavery  is  the  shadow  at  Folly's 
heels,"  Thackeray  wrote  in  his  character  sketch  of 
"Captain  Rook  and  Mr.  Pigeon."  Yet  it  seems  as  if 
he  had  not  quite  grasped  the  fact  that  there  are  things 
other  than  folly  or  knavery  to  write  about,  and  that  a 
surfeit  of  rogues  has  an  unpleasant  after-affect. 

"Oh!  for  a  little  manly,  honest,  God-relying  sim- 
plicity— cheerful,  unaffected,  and  humble  !  "  ^  he  had 
prayed  many  years  before,  in  one  of  his  earliest  re- 
views ;  but  it  was  only  with  "Vanity  Fair"  that  he 
began  to  give  it. 

^  Our  Batch  of  Novels  for  Christmas  i8jy,  {Eraser's  Magazine, 
January  1838). 


CHAPTER   XII 

MAN  ABOUT  TOWN 

Thackeray,  after  his  wife's  illness,  leaves  Great  Coram  Street — and  lives 
in  apartments  in  Jermyn  Street — becomes  a  frequenter  of  clubs — the 
Garrick — the  Reform — the  Athenaeum — his  description  of  Bohemia — 
and  his  visits  to  it — haunts  that  have  disappeared — the  "Coal  Hole" 
— the  "Cyder  Cellars" — and  a  description  of  it  in  "  Pendennis  " — 
"Evans's" — Colonel  Newcome  at  the  "Cave  of  Harmony" — the 
Fielding-  Club — Our  Club — Thackeray's  love  of  "the  play" — some 
visits  to  the  theatre  as  a  boy — and  at  Weimar — the  theatre  in  his 
writing's — "  The  Wolves  and  the  Lamb." 

WHEN  the  illness  of  his  wife  deprived  him 
of  a  home,  Thackeray,  who  was  then  about 
thirty  years  of  age,  sent  his  children  to  his 
mother,  now  living  at  Paris,  and  himself, 
of  necessity,  lived  a  bachelor  life.  He  gave  up  the 
house  in  Great  Coram  Street,  and  rented  a  room  at 
No.  27,  Jermyn  Street,  close  to  the  Museum  of  Geology 
and  within  a  few  doors  of  Regent  Street.  There  Henry 
Vizetelly,  who  was  then  founding  the  Pictorial  Times, 
called  on  him  early  in  1843,  and  happily  placed  on 
record  his  impressions  of  the  visit.  ''I  followed  the 
young  lodging-house  slavey  to  the  very  top  of  the 
house,"  he  has  written,  ''and  after  my  card  had  been 
handed  in,  I  was  asked  to  enter  the  front  apartment, 
where  a  tall,  slim  individual  between  thirty  and  thirty- 
five  years  of  age,  with  a  pleasant,  smiling  countenance, 

201 


202    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

and  a  bridgeless  nose,  and  clad  in  dressing-gown  of 
decided  Parisian  cut,  rose  from  a  small  table  standing 
close  to  the  near  window  to  receive  me.  When  he 
stood  up  the  low  pitch  of  the  room  caused  him  to  look 
even  taller  than  he  really  was,  and  his  actual  height 
was  well  over  six  feet.  .  .  .  The  apartment  was  an 
exceedingly  plainly  furnished  bedroom,  with  common 
rush-seated  chairs,  and  painted  French  bedstead,  and 
with  neither  looking-glass  nor  prints  on  the  bare,  cold, 
cheerless-looking  walls.  On  the  table  from  which  Mr. 
Thackeray  had  risen  a  white  cloth  was  spread,  on  which 
was  a  frugal  breakfast-tray,  a  cup  of  chocolate  and 
some  dry  toast ;  and  huddled  together  at  the  other  end 
were  writing  materials,  two  or  three  numbers  oiFraser's 
Magazine,  and  a  few  slips  of  manuscript.  I  presented 
Mr.  Nickisson's  letter,  and  explained  the  object  of  my 
visit,  when  Mr.  Thackeray  at  once  undertook  to  write 
upon  art,  to  review  such  books  as  he  might  fancy,  and 
to  contribute  an  occasional  article  on  the  Opera,  more 
with  reference  to  its  frequenters  than  from  a  critical 
point  of  view.  So  satisfied  was  he  with  the  three 
guineas  offered  him  for  a  couple  of  columns  weekly, 
that  he  jocularly  expressed  himself  willing  to  sign  an 
agreement  for  life  upon  these  terms.  I  can  only  sup- 
pose, from  the  eager  way  in  which  he  closed  with  my 
proposal,  that  the  prospect  of  an  additional  hundred 
and  sixty  pounds  to  his  income  was,  at  that  moment, 
anything  but  a  matter  of  indifference.  The  humble 
quarters  in  which  he  was  installed  seemed  at  any  rate 
to  indicate  that,  from  some  reason  or  other,  strict 
economy  was  just  then  the  order  of  the  day  with  him."^ 

^  dances  Back  through  Seventy  Years. 


GARRICK  AND   REFORM   CLUBS         203 

Thackeray,  of  course,  in  these  days,  became  a  con- 
firmed clubman.  When  he  came  of  age  he  had  been 
elected  a  member  of  the  Garrick  Club,  which  then  had 
its  house  in  King  Street,  Covent  Garden,  the  present 
building  in  Garrick  Street  not  being  completed  until  a 
year  after  his  death.  This  was  his  favourite  club  for 
many  years  :  '*  We,  the  happy  initiated,  never  speak  of 
it  as  the  Garrick  ;  to  us  it  is  'the  G.',  '  the  little  G.' — 
the  dearest  place  in  the  world,"  he  declared  in  a  speech 
at  one  of  the  Shakespeare  birthday  dinners.  Always 
popular  there,  in  days  to  come  he  was  the  great  man  of 
the  club,  and  the  immense  influence  he  had  was  shown 
when  in  the  late  fifties  he  quarrelled  with  Edmund  Yates. 
He  became  a  member  of  the  Reform  Club  in  1840, 
having  been  proposed  by  Martin  Thackeray  and 
seconded  by  Henry  Webbe.  New  members  of  the 
Reform  are  still  regaled  with  descriptions  of  how  the 
great  man  used  to  stand  in  the  smoking-room,  his  back 
to  the  fire,  his  legs  rather  wide  apart,  his  hands  thrust 
into  the  trouser  pockets,  and  his  head  stiffly  thrown 
backward,  while  he  joined  in  the  talk  of  the  men 
occupying  the  semicircle  of  chairs  in  front  of  him.^ 
He  introduced  the  club  into  his  novels,  and  described 
it  in  the  ''Snob  Papers"  and  the  letters  of  "Brown 
the  Elder  "  ;  and  the  club  returned  the  compliment  after 
his  death  by  purchasing  a  painting  of  him  by  Samuel 
Laurence,  and  hanging  it  in  a  prominent  position  in 
the  Strangers'  Room.  An  amusing  story  is  told  of 
Thackeray  going  into  the  coffee-room  of  the  Reform, 
and  seeing  "  beans  and  bacon  "  on  the  memi.     He  was 

^  Sir  Wemyss   Reid :    Some    Club  Ghosts  (CasselFs  Magazine,   June 
1897). 


204    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

to  have  dined  elsewhere  that  evening,  but  he  could  not 
resist  this  alluring  dish,  and,  after  hastily  writing  a 
note  to  his  host  begging  to  be  excused  on  the  ground 
that  he  had  met  an  old  friend  he  had  not  seen  for 
many  a  long  day,  he  sat  down  at  a  table,  prepared 
thoroughly  to  enjoy  himself. 

Of  the  Athenaeum  Club  Thackeray  did  not  become  a 
member  till  later.  His  name  had  been  entered  in  the 
Candidates'  Book  in  February  1846,  when  he  was  pro- 
posed by  the  Rev.  William  Harness  and  seconded  by 
Charles  Duller.  Soon  after,  however,  he  became 
famous,  and  in  1850,  long  before  he  came  up  for 
election  in  the  ordinary  way,  his  name  was  suggested 
in  committee  by  Dean  Milman,  supported  by  Macaulay 
and  Croker,  as  a  person  suitable  for  election  under 
rule  ii.,  which  provides  for  the  annual  introduction, 
without  recourse  to  ballot,  of  a  limited  number  of 
persons  of  distinguished  eminence  in  science,  litera- 
ture, art,  or  the  public  services.  The  proposal  was 
opposed  by  one  committee  man,  and  one  voice  in 
this  matter  excludes.  Hayward  was  deputed  by  Mil- 
man  to  tell  Thackeray,  who  took  the  rejection  in  good 
part. 

Thank  you  for  your  kind  note  [Thackeray  wrote  to 
Hayward,  on  February  i,  1850].  I  was  quite  pre- 
pared for  the  issue  of  the  kind  effort  made  at  the 
Athen^um  in  my  behalf;  indeed,  as  a  satirical  writer, 
I  rather  wonder  that  I  have  not  made  more  enemies 
than  I  have.  I  don't  mean  enemies  in  a  bad  sense, 
but  men  conscientiously  opposed  to  my  style,  art, 
opinions,  impertinences,  and  so  forth.  There  must 
be  thousands  of  men  to  whom  the  practice  of  ridicule 
must  be  very  offensive ;  doesn't  one  see  such  in 
society,    or   in   one's    own    family?    persons  whose 


ATHEN^UM   CLUB  205 

nature  was  not  gifted  with  a  sense  of  humour.  Such 
a  man  would  be  wrong  not  to  give  me  a  black-ball, 
or  whatever  it  is  called — a  negatory  nod  of  his 
honest,  respectable,  stupid  old  head.  And  I  submit 
to  his  verdict  without  the  slightest  feeling  of  ani- 
mosity against  my  judge.  Why,  Dr.  Johnson  would 
certainly  have  black-balled  Fielding,  whom  he  pro- 
nounced ''A  dull  fellow.  Sir,  a  dull  fellow!"  and 
why  shouldn't  my  friend  at  the  Athenaeum  ?  About 
getting  in  I  don't  care  twopence  :  but  indeed  I  am 
very  much  pleased  to  have  had  such  sureties  as 
Hallam  and  Milman,  and  to  know  that  the  gentlemen 
whom  you  mention  were  so  generous  in  their  efforts 
to  serve  me.  What  does  the  rest  matter?  If  you 
should  ever  know  the  old  gentleman  (for  old  I  am 
sure  he  is,  steady  and  respectable)  who  objects  to 
me,  give  him  my  best  compliments,  and  say  I  think 
he  was  quite  right  to  exercise  his  judgment  honestly, 
and  to  act  according  to  that  reason  with  which 
heaven  has  mercifully  endowed  him.  But  that  he 
would  be  slow,  I  wouldn't  in  the  least  object  to  meet 
him  ;  and  he  in  his  turn  would  think  me  flippant, 
etc.  Enough  of  these  egotisms.  Didn't  I  tell  you 
once  before,  that  I  feel  frightened  almost  at  the 
kindness  of  people  regarding  me?  May  we  all  be 
honest  fellows,  and  keep  our  heads  from  too  much 
vanity.  Your  case  is  a  very  different  one  :  yours 
was  a  stab  with  a  sharp  point ;  and  the  wound,  I 
know,  must  have  been  a  most  severe  one.  So  much 
the  better  in  you  to  have  borne  it  as  you  did.  I 
never  heard  in  the  least  that  your  honor  suffered  by 
the  injury  done  you,  or  that  you  lost  the  esteem  (how 
should  you  ?)  of  any  single  friend,  because  an 
enemy  dealt  you  a  savage  blow.  The  opponents 
in  your  case  exercised  a  right  to  do  a  wrong  ; 
whereas,  in  the  other,  my  Athenaeum  friend  has 
done  no  earthly  harm  to  any  mortal,  but  has  estab- 
lished his  own  character  and  got  a  great  number  of 
kind  testimonials  to  mine.^ 

^  Correspondence  of  Abraham  Hayward, 


206    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Again  in  the  following  year  Thackeray's  name  was 
brought  forward  by  his  friends,  and  this  time  he  was 
elected.  His  name  was  entered  on  the  roll  of  the  club 
as  a  barrister,  but  he  was,  of  course,  proposed  for  the 
distinction  as  *'the  author  of  'Vanity  Fair',  *  Pen- 
dennis,'  and  other  well-known  works  of  fiction." 

Thackeray  in  these  days  made  excursions  into  Bo- 
hemia, and  enjoyed  himself  hugely  ;  but  he  was  never 
a  Bohemian  in  the  sense  that  Porson  was,  or  Maginn, 
belonging  rather  to  the  more  modern  type  that  wears 
the  ''boiled  shirt"  that  provoked  the  scorn  of  an 
earlier  generation,  sits  in  the  stalls  at  a  theatre,  and  is 
a  member  of  at  least  one  reputable  club. 

A  pleasant  land,  not  fenced  with  drab  Stucco  like 
Tyburnia  or  Belgravia ;  not  guarded  by  a  huge 
standing  army  of  footmen  ;  not  echoing  with  noble 
chariots ;  not  replete  with  polite  chintz  drawing- 
rooms  and  neat  tea-tables  ;  a  land  over  which  hangs 
an  endless  fog,  occasioned  by  much  tobacco  ;  a  land 
of  chambers,  billiard  rooms,  supper  rooms,  oysters  ; 
a  land  of  song  ;  a  land  where  soda-water  flows  freely 
in  the  morning ;  a  land  of  tin  dish-covers  from 
taverns,  and  frothing  porter  ;  a  land  of  lotus-eating 
(with  lots  of  cayenne  pepper),  of  pulls  on  the  river, 
of  delicious  reading  of  novels,  magazines,  and  saun- 
terings  in  many  studios  ;  a  land  where  men  call  each 
other  by  their  Christian  names  ;  where  most  are  old, 
where  almost  all  are  young,  and  where,  if  a  few  old- 
sters enter,  it  is  because  they  have  preserved  more 
tenderly  and  carefully  than  others  their  youthful 
spirits,  and  the  delightful  capacity  to  be  idle.  I  have 
lost  my  way  to  Bohemia  now,  but  it  is  certain  that 
Prague  is  the  most  picturesque  city  in  the  world. ^ 

So  Thackeray  wrote  lovingly,  tenderly,  thinking  of 
^  Philip. 


IN   BOHEMIA  207 

the  visits  he  had  paid  to  the  happy  land  where  for  the 
time  being  worries  and  trouble  are  thrown  aside  : — 

Sorrows,  begfone ! 
Life  and  its  ills, 
Duns  and  their  bills, 
Bid  we  to  flee. 
Come  with  the  dawn, 
Blue-devil  sprite, 
Leave  us  to-nig"ht. 
Round  the  old  tree.^ 

Thackeray's  Bohemia  has  gone,  leaving  scarcely  a 
trace  behind.  Gone  is  the  little  club  on  the  first  floor  of 
a  small  old-fashioned  tavern  in  Dean  Street,  Soho,  kept 
by  Dicky  Moreland,  the  last  man  in  London  to  wear 
a  pigtail  and  topboots,  where,  to  the  delight  of  George 
Augustus  Sala,  Thackeray  one  night  sang  ''The 
Mahogany  Tree."  The  little  establishment  in  the 
Strand,  beloved  of  Thackeray,  where  two  elderly  maiden 
ladies  served  fish  suppers,  has  disappeared.  Ranelagh 
Gardens  has  been  improved  off  the  face  of  the  map  ; 
so  has  Vauxhall  Gardens,  with  its  twenty  thousand 
additional  lamps  burnt  every  night,  where  Arthur  Pen- 
dennis  went  with  an  order  that  admitted  "the  Editor 
of  the  Pall  Mall  Gazette  and  friend,"  and  there, 
rescuing  Captain  Costigan  from  an  awkward  predica- 
ment, was  rewarded  with  the  acquaintance  of  pretty 
Fanny  Bolton  ! 

No  longer  exists  the  "Wrekin"  in  Broad  Court, 
Drury  Lane,  famous  for  Shrewsbury  cakes  and  Tewkes- 
bury ales,  where  the  little  coterie  of  authors,  actors, 
and  artists,  calling  itself  the  ''  Rationals,"  assembled 
on   Saturdays   to   dine   at  four  o'clock ;    nor   the   old 

^  The  Mahogany  Tree. 


2o8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Gray's  Inn  Coffee-house,  which  also  had  its  Thackeray- 
associations.  The  novelist  was  at  one  time  seen  going 
eastward  at  an  hour  of  the  day  when  all  the  rest  of  the 
world  was  moving  towards  the  west,  and  once  a  curious 
person  tracked  him  to  the  Gray's  Inn  Coffee-house, 
and  saw  him  sit  down  to  dinner  there  in  solitary  state. 
*'Ah!"  said  Thackeray,  when  years  after  Cordy 
Jeaffreson  recalled  the  incident  to  him.  "  That  was 
when  I  was  drinking  the  last  of  that  wonderful  bin  of 
port.  It  was  rare  wine.  There  were  only  two  dozen 
bottles  and  a  few  bottles  over,  when  I  came  upon  the 
remains  of  that  bin,  and  I  forthwith  bargained  with 
mine  host  to  keep  them  for  me.  I  drank  every  bottle 
and  every  drop  of  that  remainder  by  myself.  I  shared 
never  a  bottle  with  living  man  ;  and  so  long  as  the 
wine  lasted,  I  slipped  off  to  the  Gray's  Inn  Coffee 
House  with  all  possible  secrecy  short  of  disguise, 
whenever  I  thought  a  dinner  and  a  bottle  by  myself 
would  do  me  good."^ 

Gone,  too,  are  the  '*  Coal  Hole,"  the  "Cyder 
Cellars,"  and  "Evans's";  but  these  places  deserve 
more  than  passing  mention.  The  "Coal  Hole," 
owned  by  John  Rhodes,  was  situated  in  a  court  off 
the  Strand,  on  the  site  now  occupied  by  the  stage  of 
Terry's  Theatre,  and  here  Thackeray  would  often  come 
about  midnight  for  a  Welsh  Rarebit.  The  "Cyder 
Cellars,"  managed  by  John  Rhodes's  brother  William, 
was  in  Maiden  Lane,  between  the  little  Jewish 
synagogue  and  the  stage-door  of  the  Adelphi  Theatre, 
and  it  attracted  a  more  distinguished  company  than 
the  "Coal  Hole."     Porson  had  made  it  his  house  of 

^  J.  C.  Jeaffreson  :  A  Book  of  Recollections,  Vol.  I,  p.  288. 


THE    CYDER   CELLARS  209 

call,  and  night  after  night  would  sit  there  babbling 
Greek  in  his  cups  :  after  his  death  his  portrait  was 
hung  in  the  room.  Maginn  and  most  of  the  "  Eraser  " 
set  were  visitors,  more  or  less  regular ;  and  Charles 
Dickens,  and  ''Disraeli  the  Younger,"  and  Dr. 
Maguire,  and  Napoleon  III  before  he  became 
President  of  the  French  Republic.  There  in  the  days 
of  his  youth  Thackeray  heard  Sloman — the  ''Nadab" 
of  ''The  Newcomes" — sing  his  improvisations;  and 
to  him  he  referred  in  the  National  Standard^ 

Sloman  repeats  the  strains  his  father  sang,^ 

and  appended  to  this  line  a  note:  "It  is  needless  to 
speak  of  this  eminent  vocalist  and  improvisatore.  He 
nightly  delights  a  numerous  and  respectable  audience 
at  the  Cyder  Cellars."  Here  also,  in  October  1848, 
Thackeray  went,  at  least  twice,  "  to  hear  the  man  sing 
about  going  to  be  hanged."  This  was  the  once  famous 
"Sam  Hall,"  sung  by  the  comedian  Ross,  who  drew 
the  town  to  the  "Cyder  Cellars."  "Sam  Hall"  was 
the  chaunt  of  a  chimney-sweep,  who  was  to  be  hanged 
for  murder  the  next  morning,  and,  having  some  faint 
glimmering  of  the  theory  of  heredity,  endeavoured  to 
father  his  crimes  on  his  forbears. 

"  My  name  it  Is  Sam  Hall, 

Chimney-sweep, 

Chimney-sweep  ; 
My  name  it  is  Sam  Hall, 

Chimney-sweep. 
My  name  it  is  Sam  Hall  ; 
I've  robbed  both  great  and  small ; 
And  now  I  pays  for  all : 

Damn  your  eyes." 

^  Mr.  Braham{Natio7ial  Standard,  May  ii,  1833). 
I.— P 


210    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Each  verse  ended  with  the  same  three  words,  and 
the  expression  long  survived  the  song.  This  popular 
ditty  was  given  with  tremendous  effect  about  two 
o'clock  in  the  morning.  Albert  Smith  described  the 
"Cyder  Cellars"  in  "The  Medical  Student"  and 
"The  Adventures  of  Mr.  Ledbury";  and  Thackeray 
gave  a  description  of  the  place,  called  for  the  nonce 
the  "  Back  Kitchen,"  where  George  Warrington  took 
Arthur  Pendennis,  and  where  Tom  Sergeant,  Clive 
Newcome,  and  Fred  Bayham  foregathered. 

Healthy  country  tradesmen  and  farmers,  in 
London  for  their  business,  came  and  recreated 
themselves  with  the  jolly  singing  and  suppers  at 
the  Back  Kitchen, — squads  of  young  apprentices 
and  assistants,  the  shutters  being  closed  over  the 
scene  of  their  labours — came  hither,  for  fresh  air 
doubtless, — rakish  young  medical  students,  gallant, 
dashing,  what  is  called  "  loudly"  dressed,  and  (must 
it  be  owned?)  somewhat  dirty, — came  here,  smoking 
and  drinking  and  vociferously  applauding  the 
songs ; — young  University  bucks  were  to  be  found 
here,  too,  with  that  indescribable  genteel  simper 
which  is  only  learned  at  the  knees  of  Alma  Mater  ; — 
and  handsome  young  guardsmen,  and  florid  bucks 
from  the  St.  James's  Street  Clubs  ; — nay  !  senators 
English  and  Irish  ;  and  even  members  of  the  House 
of  Peers.  ^ 

The  most  famous  of  all  these  taverns  that  were  the 
links  between  the  coffee-houses  of  Addison's  time — 
the  Will's  and  Button's — and  the  modern  music-halls 
was  Evans's,  at  the  west  corner  of  Covent  Garden 
Piazza — the  frontage,  unaltered  through  the  centuries, 
may    be    seen    in     Hogarth's     picture,     "Morning." 

^  Pendennis,  chap.  xxxi. 


EVANS'S  211 

**  Evans's,  late  Joy's,"  was  the  punning  inscription 
on  the  lamp,  though  in  Thackeray's  day  the  pro- 
prietor was  John,  invariably  called  '*  Paddy,"  Green. 
This  was  a  great  resort  of  men  about  town,  and 
among  the  habitues  were  Douglas  Jerrold,  Horace 
Mayhew,  Serjeant  Ballantine,  James  Hannay,  Lionel 
Lawson,  Albert  Smith  and  his  brother  Arthur, 
George  Augustus  Sala,  and  John  Leech.  At  one  time 
ribald  songs  were  an  element  of  the  programme,  as 
those  readers  of  "The  Newcomes"  are  aware  who 
know  that  the  ''  Cave  of  Harmony"  had  for  its  proto- 
type "Evans's." 

One  night  Colonel  Newcome,  with  his  son  Clive, 
came  here  "to  see  the  wits."  A  timely  warning  to  the 
landlord  from  Jones  of  Trinity  that  a  boy  was  in  the 
room,  and  a  gentleman  who  was  quite  a  greenhorn, 
and  the  songs  were  so  carefully  selected  that  "a  lady's 
school  might  have  come  in  and,  but  for  the  smell  of 
the  cigars  and  brandy  and  water,  have  taken  no  harm 
by  what  occurred."  The  Colonel  was  delighted, 
especially  when  Nadab,  the  improvisatore,  devoted 
a  verse  to  him  and  to  his  son,  and  he  sang  a  ditty 
himself,  "Wapping  Old  Stairs."  Unfortunately  for 
the  peace  of  the  evening,  however.  Captain  Costigan 
entered,  very  drunk,  and  insisted  upon  singing  one  of 
his  most  ribald  songs. 

"Silence!"  Colonel  Newcome  roared  at  the  end 
of  the  second  verse  of  drunken  Captain  Costigan's 
song  at  the  "Cave  of  Harmony."  "'Go  on!'" 
cries  the  Colonel,  in  his  high  voice,  trembling  with 
anger.  "  Does  any  gentleman  say  '  Go  on  '  ?  Does 
any  man  who  has  a  wife  and  sisters,  or  children  at 
home,  say  "  Go  on  "  to  such  disgusting  ribaldry  as 


212    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

this?  Do  you  dare,  Sir,  to  call  yourself  a  gentle- 
man, or  to  say  you  hold  the  King's  commission  and 
to  sit  down  amongst  Christians  and  men  of  honour, 
and  defile  the  ears  of  young  boys  with  this  wicked 
balderdash  ?  " 

*' Why  bring  young  boys  here,  old  boy?"  cries  a 
voice  of  the  malcontents. 

"Why?  Because  I  thought  I  was  coming  to  a 
society  of  gentlemen,"  cried  out  the  indignant 
Colonel.  "Because  I  never  could  have  believed 
that  Englishmen  could  meet  together  and  allow  a 
man,  and  an  old  man,  so  to  disgrace  himself.  For 
shame,  you  old  wretch  !  Go  home  to  your  bed,  you 
hoary  old  sinner  !  And  for  my  part,  I'm  not  sorry 
that  my  son  should  see,  for  once  in  his  life,  to  what 
shame  and  degradation  and  dishonour,  drunkenness 
and  whisky  may  bring  a  man.  Never  mind  the 
change,  sir  ! — curse  the  change  !  "  says  the  Colonel, 
facing  the  amazed  waiter.  "  Keep  it  till  you  see  me 
in  this  place  again,  which  will  be  never — by  George, 
never  ! "  And  shouldering  his  stick,  and  scowling 
round  at  the  company  of  scared  bacchanalians,  the 
indignant  gentleman  stalked  away,  his  boy  after 
him. 

Clive  seemed  rather  shamefaced,  but  I  fear  the 
rest  of  the  company  looked  still  more  foolish. 

' '  A  usst,  que  diahle  venait-il  faire  dans  cette 
galere?  "  says  King  of  Corpus  to  Jones  of  Trinity  ; 
and  Jones  gave  a  shrug  of  his  shoulders,  which  were 
smarting,  perhaps  ;  for  that  uplifted  cane  of  the 
Colonel's  had  somehow  fallen  on  the  back  of  every 
man  in  the  room.^ 

Before  "The  Newcomes "  was  written,  however, 
songs  of  an  equivocal  nature  had  given  place  to 
choruses  sung  by  trained  choir-boys,  whose  fresh  young 
voices  in  the  old  glees  of  Purcell,  Niedermayer,  and 
Pearsall,  were  a  source  of  delight  to  Thackeray. 

^  The  Newcoines,  chap.  i. 


FIELDING   CLUB  213 

It  was  outside  **  Evans's"  that  Lowell,  being  on  a 
visit  to  London,  met  the  novelist  looking  so  haggard 
and  worn  that  he  asked  if  he  were  ill.  '*  Come  inside, 
and  I'll  tell  you  all  about  it,"  said  the  latter.  *'  I  have 
killed  the  Colonel."  At  a  table,  in  a  quiet  corner 
Thackeray  took  the  manuscript  from  his  pocket,  and 
read  the  chapter  that  records  the  death  of  Colonel 
Newcome.  When  he  came  to  the  end,  the  tears,  that 
had  been  swelling  his  lids,  trickled  down  his  face,  and 
the  last  word  was  almost  an  inarticulate  sob. 

To  the  last  Thackeray  loved  Bohemian  gatherings, 
and  in  the  last  month  of  his  life  went  with  Leech  to 
**  Evans's."  When  he  was  at  the  height  of  his  fame,  in 
1852,  he  took  an  active  part  in  the  formation  of  a  club, 
established  owing  to  the  impossibility  of  getting  supper 
at  a  late  hour  at  the  Garrick,  and  he  gave  it  the  pleasant, 
convivial  title  of  the  Fielding  Club.  Among  the  mem- 
bers were  Arcedeckne,  Jullien,  George  Henry  Lewes, 
Russell  the  war-correspondent ;  Tom  Macdonald,  the 

Laughing  Tom  is  laughing  yet 

of  ''The  Ballad  of  Bouillabaisse";  Tom  Taylor; 
Pigott,  subsequently  Examiner  of  Plays ;  Shirley 
Brooks,  Charles  Lamb  Kenney,  Talfourd,  Baron 
Huddlestone,  Serjeant  Ballantine,  Leigh  Murray,  John 
Leech,  and  Albert  Smith.  The  last  wrote  some  verses 
describing  tLe  members,  some  lines  of  which  ran  : 

"And  then  there  came  a  mighty  man  who,  'tis  but  fair  to 
state, 
Among  the  small  is  affable,  though  great  among  the  great — 
The  good  Pendennis.''^ 

^  Charles  Mackay :  Recollections,  p.  300. 


214    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Even  so  late  as  1861  Thackeray  joined  '*  Our  Club," 
a  literary  and  social  rendezvouSy  next  door  to  Clunn's 
Hotel,  where  the  members  dined.  Many  of  the  Punch 
staff,  and  others  of  the  novelist's  friends  belonged  to 
*'  O.C,"  as  it  was  called,  and  here  Thackeray  was  in  his 
element.  "I  cannot  conceive  him  to  have  ever  been 
seen  to  greater  advantage  than  when  he  was  sitting 
with  a  party  of  his  congenial  comrades  at  O.C.,  gossip- 
ing tenderly  about  dead  authors,  artists,  and  actors,  or 
cheerily  and  in  the  kindliest  spirit  about  living  notabili- 
ties," Cordy  Jeaffreson  has  written.  "It  was  very 
pleasant  to  watch  the  white-haired  veteran,  and  also  to 
hear  him  (though  at  best  he  sang  indifferently),  whilst 
he  trolled  forth  his  favourite  ballads  touching  Little 
Billee  and  Father  Martin  Luther.  Better  still  it  was 
to  regard  the  radiant  gratification  of  his  face,  whilst 
Horace  May  hew  sang  '  The  Mahogany  Tree,'  perhaps 
the  finest  and  most  stirring  of  Thackeray's  social  songs, 
or  was  throwing  his  soul  into  the  passionate  '  Marseil- 
laise.'"! 

No  record  of  Thackeray's  pleasures  may  omit  mention 
of  the  theatre,  which  was  one  of  his  abiding  joys.  No 
boy  had  ever  derived  more  pleasure  from  this  form  of 
entertainment ;  not  even  little  Rawdon  Crawley,  one 
of  fifty  gown-boys  in  the  Chapel  of  Whitefriars  School, 
''thinking,  not  about  the  sermon,  but  about  going 
home  next  Saturday,  when  his  father  would  certainly 
tip  him,  and  perhaps  would  take  him  to  the  play,"  can 
have  experienced  a  deeper  thrill  of  delight.  In  the 
schoolboy's  diary  comes  that  glorious  announcement : 
''Wednesday,  December  27th;    Papa  took  me  to  the 

1  A  Book  of  Recollections f  Vol.  I,  p.  286. 


THE   PANTOMIMES  215 

Pantomime."  That  was  the  red-letter  day  of  young 
Thackeray's  year,  of  the  years,  indeed,  for  rarely  a 
Boxing-Day  came  that  did  not  find  him  at  the  Panto- 
mime. 

Very  few  men  in  the  course  of  nature  can  expect 
to  see  all  the  pantomimes  in  one  season,  but  I  hope 
to  the  end  of  my  life  I  shall  never  forego  reading 
about  them  in  that  delicious  sheet  of  the  Times  which 
appears  on  the  morning  after  Boxing-Day.  Perhaps 
reading  is  even  better  than  seeing.  The  best  way, 
I  think,  is  to  say  you  are  ill,  lie  in  bed,  and  have  the 
paper  for  two  hours,  reading  all  the  way  down  from 
Drury  Lane  to  the  Britannia  at  Hoxton.^ 

It  was  only  in  his  later  years,  however,  that  he  was 
content  to  read  about  them,  for  in  his  youth  he  never 
missed  an  opportunity  to  visit  a  theatre.  In  "Vanity 
Fair"  he  recalled  one  blissful  night  when  he  and 
another  Carthusian  obtained  permission  to  appear  on 
Drury  Lane  stage  when  Dowton  and  Liston  played  in 
*'The  Hypocrite,"  and  a  certain  august  personage  was 
in  the  audience. 

The  King !  There  he  was !  Beef-eaters  were 
before  the  august  box.  The  Marquis  of  Steyne 
(Lord  of  the  Powder  Closet)  and  other  great  officers 
of  state  were  behind  the  chair  on  which  he  sat — He 
sat — florid  of  face,  portly  of  person,  covered  with 
orders  and  in  a  rich  curling  head  of  hair.  How  we 
sang  God  save  him  !  How  the  house  rocked  and 
shouted  with  that  magnificent  music !  How  they 
cheered  and  cried,  and  waved  handkerchiefs  !  Ladies 
wept ;  mothers  clasped  their  children  ;  some  fainted 
with  emotion.  People  were  suffocated  in  the  pit, 
shrieks  and  groans  rising  up  amidst  the  writhing 
and  shouting  mass  there  of  his  people  who  were, 

^  Round  about  a  Christmas  Tree. 


2i6    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

and,  indeed,  showed  themselves  almost  to  be,  ready- 
to  die  for  him.  Yes,  we  saw  him.  Fate  cannot 
deprive  us  of  that.  Others  have  seen  Napoleon. 
Some  few  still  exist  who  have  beheld  Frederick  the 
Great,  Doctor  Johnson,  Marie  Antoinette,  etc. — be 
it  our  reasonable  boast  to  our  children  that  we  saw 
George  the  Good,  the  Magnificent,  the  Great. 

At  Weimar  Thackeray  went  frequently  to  the  theatre. 
Opera  was  given  there,  though  the  orchestra,  under 
the  direction  of  Hummel,  was,  in  his  opinion,  far 
superior  to  the  singers.  During  the  winter  he  heard 
"Medea",  ''The  Barber  of  Seville",  "II  Flauto 
Magico",  "The  Battle  of  Vittoria",  and  "Fidelio," 
in  the  last  of  which  Madame  Schroder-Devrient  sang. 
He  saw  "Hernani,"  and  recommended  his  family  to 
read  it ;  went  with  an  actor  to  Erfurt  to  see  Schiller's 
"Die  Rauber"  (which  play  was  thought  too  patriotic 
and  free  for  the  Weimar  Court  Theatre) ;  and  admired 
Devrient's  magnificent  performance  of  "Franz  Moor," 
though  he  declared,  "  I  never  saw  anything  so  horrible 
in  my  life."  During  his  early  visit  to  Paris  he  saw 
Mile.  Mars  in  "Valerie"  and  Madame  Dejazet  in 
^^  Napoleon  a  Briejine,'^  as  well  as  Rachel,  who  was 
trying  to  revive  the  taste  for  Racine ;  but  Thackeray 
thought  she  could  only  succeed  in  galvanising  the 
corpse,  not  bring  it  to  life  :  he  was  glad  of  this,  for, 
he  said,  he  would  rather  go  to  see  Deburan  dancing 
on  a  rope,  "  his  lines  are  quite  as  natural  and  poetical." 

When  he  was  reading  for  the  bar,  "As  for  theatres, 
I  scarcely  go  more  than  once  a  week,  which  is  moder- 
ate for  me,"  he  wrote  to  his  mother.  "  In  a  few  days 
come  the  pantomimes.  Huzza  ! "  He  was  always 
happy   in   a   theatre.     Once  he   asked   a  friend  if  he 


'^^  ^  ///J  '     ^|l|.l^|liA'l\ul 


THACKERAY    AT    THE    I'l.AY 
From  a  sketch  hv  Fredcj-ick  W'alkc 


LOVES   THE   THEATRE  217 

loved  **the  play,"  and  receiving  the  qualified  answer, 
*'Ye-es,  I  like  a  good  play,"  *'Oh,  get  out!"  the 
great  man  retorted.  "  I  said  the  play.  You  don't 
even  understand  what  I  meanf''  And  Edward  Fitz- 
Gerald  went  with  him  in  the  pit  one  night  to  witness 
a  piece  which,  with  its  mock  sentiment,  indifferent 
humour,  and  ultra-melodramatic  scenes  bored  the  poet 
so  terribly  that  he  was  about  to  suggest  they  should 
leave,  when  Thackeray  turned  to  him,  and  exclaimed 
delightedly,  *'  By  G— d  !  isn't  it  splendid?" 

In  his  youth,  Thackeray  declared,  ''the  stage  was 
covered  with  angels,  who  sang,  acted,  and  danced," 
and  '*  all  the  dancers  were  as  beautiful  as  houris  "  ;  and 
humorously  he  announced  his  eventual  disillusion. 

What  is  most  certain  and  lamentable  is  the  decay 
of  stage  beauty  since  the  days  of  George  IV. 
Think  of  Sontag !  I  remember  her  in  "Otello" 
and"  Donna  del  Lago"  in  '28.  I  remember  being 
behind  the  scenes  at  the  opera  (where  numbers  of  us 
young  fellows  of  fashion  used  to  go)  and  seeing 
Sontag  let  her  hair  fall  down  over  her  shoulders 
previous  to  her  murder  by  Donzelli.  Young  fellows 
have  never  seen  beauty  like  that^  heard  such  a  voice, 
seen  such  hair,  such  eyes.  Don't  tell  me!  A  man 
who  has  been  about  town  since  the  reign  of  George 
IV.,  ought  he  not  to  know  better  than  you  young 
lads  who  have  seen  nothing?  The  deterioration  of 
women  is  lamentable  ;  and  the  conceit  of  young 
fellows  more  lamentable  still,  that  they  won't  see  this 
fact,  but  persist  in  thinking  their  time  as  good  as 
ours.^ 

The  theatre  figures  largely  in  Thackeray's  writings, 
from  the  days  when  he  began  to  contribute  to  Fraser's 

^  Dc  Juventute. 


2i8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Magazine.  One  paper  in  ''The  Paris  Sketch  Book" 
is  entirely  devoted  to  the  consideration  of  ''French 
Dramas  and  Melodramas,"  and  one  of  the  "Yellow- 
plush  Papers"  is  devoted  to  a  notice  of  Bulwer  Lytton's 
"Sea-Captain."  "  Mr.  Spec."  takes  his  young  friend, 
Augustus  Jones,  to  the  pantomime  at  Covent  Garden 
Theatre  ;  and,  a  dozen  years  later,  Mr.  Roundabout 
describes  the  pantomime  to  which  he  went  in  company 
with  Bobby  Miseltow :  while  of  that  once  popular 
dancer  Miss  Delancy  {nee  Budge),  and  of  her  daughter 
Morgiana  (so  named  after  that  celebrated  part  in  "The 
Forty  Thieves "  which  Miss  Budge  performed  with 
unbounded  applause  both  at  the  "Surrey"  and  at  the 
"Wells"),  the  curious  may  read  in  the  printed  "Con- 
fessions "  of  that  eminent  historian  of  society,  George 
Savage  Fitz-Boodle,  Esq. 

In  the  novels  there  is  frequent  mention  of  the  theatre, 
and  nearly  everyone  goes  to  the  play  or  the  opera.  In 
"Vanity  Fair,"  Cuff  (whom  Dobbin  thrashed),  the 
great  dandy  of  the  Swishtail  seminary,  was  at  an 
absurdly  youthful  age  acquainted  with  the  merits  of  the 
principal  actors,  preferring  Mr.  Kean  to  Mr.  Kemble. 
Little  George  Osborne,  too,  with  Rawson  the  foot- 
man, visited  all  the  principal  theatres  of  the  metropolis, 
knew  the  names  of  all  the  actors  from  Drury  Lane  to 
Sadler's  Wells,  and  performed,  indeed,  many  of  the 
plays  to  the  Todd  family  and  their  youthful  friends, 
with  West's  famous  characters,  in  their  pasteboard 
theatre. 

During  the  Waterloo  campaign,  everybody  in  Brus- 
sels went  to  the  opera,  where  it  was  almost  like  being 
in  old  England,  so  many  familiar  British  faces  were  to 


THE   THEATRE   IN   "VANITY   FAIR"     219 

be  seen  ;  but  the  coup  d'osil  of  the  Brussels  opera-house 
did  not  strike  Mrs.  O'Dowd  as  being  so  fine  as  the 
theatre  in  Fishamble  Street,  Dublin,  nor  was  the 
French  music  at  all  equal,  in  her  opinion,  to  the  melo- 
dies of  her  native  country.  Here  it  was  on  a  certain 
memorable  evening  when  Mr.  and  Mrs.  George 
Osborne,  Dobbin,  and  Mrs.  O'Dowd  were  in  a  box 
facing  another  occupied  by  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Rawdon 
Crawley  and  General  Tufto,  that  Becky  played  Osborne 
against  the  General — and  won  them  both.  Becky  had 
her  little  box  on  the  third  tier  of  the  opera-house  in 
London,  too,  and  in  the  crush-room  was  cut  by  Lady 
Bareacres  and  Lady  de  la  Mole,  both  of  whom  she  had 
known  in  Brussels,  though,  after  her  presentation  at 
Court,  she  made  things  equal  by  refusing  to  recognise 
Lady  Crackenbury  and  Mrs.  Washington  White,  whose 
invitations  she  had  once  eagerly  sought.  She  (the 
daughter  of  a  French  opera  dancer)  acted  in  the  char- 
ades at  Gaunt  House,  where  she  made  such  a  success 
as  Clytemnestra  ('*Mrs.  Rawdon  Crawley  was  quite 
killing  in  the  part,"  said  Lord  Steyne),  and,  as  a 
French  Marquise  in  the  second  charade,  sang  *'The 
Rose  upon  my  Balcony "  from  Sir  George  Thrum's 
opera,  **  The  Brigand's  Wife  " — this  was  a  favourite  song 
also  of  "The  Ravenswing"  (Mrs.  Hooker  Walker). 
It  is  hinted  that  Becky  may  have  been  the  Madame 
Rebecque  whose  appearance  in  the  opera  of  **  La 
Dame  Blanche  "  at  Strassburg  in  1830  gave  rise  to  a 
furious  uproar  in  the  theatre  there.  Finally,  during 
their  continental  tour,  Amelia  and  her  boy,  George, 
and  Dobbin,  and  Jos  were  frequent  visitors  to  the 
Pumpernickel  Staats-Theater. 


220    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

They  went  to  the  opera  often  of  evenings — to  those 
snug  unassuming  dear  old  operas  in  the  German 
towns,  where  the  noblesse  sits  and  cries  and  knits 
stockings  on  the  one  side,  over  against  the  bourgeoisie 
on  the  other ;  and  His  Transparency  the  Duke  and 
his  Transparent  family,  all  very  fat  and  good-natured, 
come  and  occupy  the  great  box  in  the  middle  ;  and 
the  pit  is  full  of  the  most  elegant  slim-waisted  officers 
with  straw-coloured  moustachios,  and  twopence  a  day 
on  full  pay.  Here  it  was  that  Emmy  found  her  de- 
light, and  was  introduced  for  the  first  time  to  the 
wonders  of  Mozart  and  Cimarosa.  The  Major's 
musical  taste  has  been  before  alluded  to,  and  his 
performances  on  the  flute  commended.  But  perhaps 
the  chief  pleasure  he  had  in  these  operas  was  in 
watching  Emmy's  rapture  while  listening  to  them. 
A  new  world  of  love  and  beauty  broke  upon  her  when 
she  was  introduced  to  those  divine  compositions:  this 
lady  had  the  keenest  and  finest  sensibility,  and  how 
could  she  be  indifferent  when  she  heard  Mozart? 
The  tender  parts  of  "Don  Juan"  awakened  in  her 
raptures  so  exquisite  that  she  would  ask  herself  when 
she  went  to  say  her  prayers  of  a  night,  whether  it  was 
not  wicked  to  feel  so  much  delight  as  that  with  which 
''Vedrai  Carino"  and  "  Batti  Batti"  filled  her  gentle 
little  bosom?  But  the  Major,  whom  she  consulted 
upon  this  head,  as  her  theological  adviser  (and  who 
himself  had  a  pious  and  reverent  soul)  said  that,  for 
his  part,  every  beauty  of  art  and  nature  made  him 
thankful  as  well  as  happy  ;  and  that  the  greatest 
pleasure  to  be  had  is  listening  to  fine  music,  as  in 
looking  at  the  stars  in  the  sky,  or  at  a  beautiful  land- 
scape or  picture,  was  a  benefit  for  which  we  might 
thank  Heaven  as  sincerely  as  for  any  other  worldly 
blessing.^ 

The  interest  of  the  earlier  part  of  ''Pendennis"  is 
placed  almost  entirely  in  stage-land.  We  are  intro- 
duced to  the  full  strength  of  Mr.  Bingley's  stock  com- 

^    Vanity  Fair,  chap.  Ixii. 


THE  THEATRE   IN  "PENDENNIS"       221 

pany  at  the  Theatre  Royal,  Chatteris,  from  Mr.  Bows 
the  first  violinist  in  the  orchestra,  and  Mrs.  Dropsicum 
(Bingley's  mother-in-law,  great  in  "Macbeth")  who 
takes  the  money  at  the  doors,  to  the  leading  lady  her- 
self. Miss  "  Milly""  Fotheringay.  Foker  and  Pendennis 
attended  a  performance  of  "The  Stranger"  in  which 
Miss  Fotheringay's  Mary  Haller  is  supported  by  the 
Countess  Wintersen  of  Mrs.  Bingley,  the  Baron  Stein- 
forth  of  Garbetts  and  the  Tobias  of  Goll.  Bingley 
played  the  hero  and  was  attired  in  light  pantaloons 
and  Hessian  boots  and  had  the  stage  jewellery  on  too, 
and  allowed  his  little  finger  to  quiver  out  of  his  cloak 
with  a  sham  diamond  ring  covering  the  first  joint  of 
the  finger  and  twiddling  in  the  faces  of  the  pit — this 
had  belonged  to  George  Frederick  Cooke,  who  had  it 
from  Mr.  Quin,  who  may  have  bought  it  for  a  shilling. 
After  this  Pendennis,  falling  in  love  with  Miss 
Fotheringay,  went  to  the  theatre  nearly  every  night, 
and  on  the  occasion  of  that  lady's  Benefit  took  his 
mother  and  little  Laura  and  the  Rev.  Robert  Smirke 
to  see  "Hamlet."  Miss  Fotheringay,  of  course,  was 
the  Ophelia,  and  Mr.  Hornbull  from  London  the 
Hamlet  "  for  this  night  only,"  Mr.  Bingley  modestly  con- 
tenting himself  with  Horatio,  reserving  his  full  strength 
for  William  in  "Black  Eyed  Susan,"  which  was  the 
second  piece,  and  in  this  the  beneficiaire  played  Susan, 
Mr.  Goll  the  Admiral,  and  Mr.  Garbetts  Captain  Bold- 
weather.  Later,  through  the  instrumentality  of  Major 
Pendennis,  Lord  Steyne  sent  down  to  Chatteris  Dolphin, 
the  London  manager,  who  also  figures  in  "  Lovel  the 
Widower"  as  the  employer  of  the  ballet  girl,  Bessy 
Bellenden.      Dolphin,    then     running    the    Museum 


222    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

Theatre  under  the  patronage  of  the  most  noble  Marquis, 
came,  attended  by  his  secretary  William  Minns,  saw  a 
performance  of  *'  Pizarro,"  and  was  so  delighted  with 
Miss  Fotheringay's  impersonation  of  Cora  that  he 
forthwith  gave  her  an  engagement  to  play  in  London 
at  once.  And  with  her  departure  Pendennis's  interest 
in  the  Chatteris  Theatre  ceased — and  so  does  ours. 
When  Pendennis  saw  the  lady  again  she  was  the 
wife  of  the  old  heau,  Sir  Charles  Mirabel,  and  he 
wondered  how  he  could  ever  have  thought  he  loved 
her. 

Space  forbids  reference  to  the  theatre  in  the  other 
stories,  though  it  figures  in  all,  and  especially  in 
''Esmond"  and  "The  Virginians";  but  before  pass- 
ing from  the  subject,  a  word  must  be  said  of  Thackeray's 
first  and  only  serious  attempt  to  write  for  the  stage. 
After  his  return  from  the  first  American  tour  he  sub- 
mitted his  comedy,  "The  Wolves  and  the  Lamb,"  to 
Buckstone  of  the  Haymarket  and  then  to  Wigan  of  the 
Olympic ;  but  neither  of  these  managers,  despite  the 
popularity  of  the  author,  would  produce  it.  "I  thought 
I  could  write  a  play,"  Thackeray  said,  sadly,  "and  I 
find  I  can't."  He  was  quite  right.  The  play  is,  of 
course,  well  written,  the  dialogue  is  amusing,  and  the 
characters  admirably  drawn  ;  but  there  is  too  much  talk 
and  too  little  action.  It  is  essentially  for  the  closet,  not 
for  the  stage  :  a  novel,  with  dramatic  possibilities,  cast 
in  the  form  of  a  comedy.  Thackeray  eventually  took 
this  view,  for,  retaining  much  of  the  dialogue,  he  con- 
verted "The  Wolves  and  the  Lamb  "  into  "  Lovel  the 
Widower."  He  was  never  quite  convinced,  however, 
that  the  play  might  not  have  been  successful. 


"THE  WOLVES   AND   THE   LAMB"       223 

Is  *'Lovel  the  Widower"  the  story  which  you 
propose  to  dramatise  for  Miss  Sedgwick  and  Mr. 
Robson?  [he  wrote  to  Cecil  Howard,  on  January  20, 
1862].  I  wrote  it  originally  as  a  drama  myself, 
having  Mr.  Robson  in  my  eye  for  the  principal 
character.  Mr.  Wigan,  however,  did  not  think  the 
piece  suitable  for  his  theatre,  and  declined  it ;  as  also 
did  Mr.  Buckstone,  unless  I  would  make  alterations, 
which  I  did  not  choose  to  do. 

We  are  going  to  have  a  private  representation  of 
this  piece  by  some  of  my  friends  and  family,  and  I 
had  it  printed  to  save  the  trouble  of  copying.  The 
conversations  at  the  commencement  seem  needlessly 
long,  and  probably  are  unsuitable  for  the  stage,  but 
these  could  surely  be  curtailed  ;  the  last  act  is  so  very 
lively  and  amusing  that  I  cannot  but  think  Mr.  Wigan 
and  Mr.  Buckstone  were  wrong  concerning  it. 

Will  Mr.  Robson  have  the  kindness  to  read  it 
over?  It  seems  to  me  that  he  and  Miss  Sedgwick 
will  be  excellent  representatives  of  the  two  principal 
characters. 


CHAPTER   XIII 


"VANITY   FAIR"   (1847-1848) 

Thackeray's  position  in  literary  circles  in  1846 — his  connection  with 
Punch — his  early  contributions  to  that  periodical — the  proprietors 
dissatisfied  with  "  Miss  Tickletoby's  Lectures  " — which  were  there- 
fore discontinued — Thackeray  takes  his  place  at  the  Round  Table, 
1843 — '^'Jeames's  Diary"  attracts  attention — "The  Snobs  of  Eng- 
land " — and  the  influence  of  these  papers  on  Thackeray's  reputation 
— Thackeray  determined  to  make  a  bid  for  fame — "Vanity  Fair" 
begun — the  MS.  of  the  novel  not  "hawked  round  the  town" — 
accepted  by  Messrs.  Bradbury  and  Evans — Thackeray's  letters  to 
Aytoun  in  January  1847 — "  Vanity  Fair  "  published  in  monthly 
numbers — its  sales  increase — Thackeray's  works  never  so  popular 
as  those  of  Dickens — "  Currer  Bell"  dedicates  "Jane  Eyre"  to 
Thackeray — Abraham  Hayward  praises  "Vanity  Fair"  in  the 
Edinburgh  Review — the  charge  of  cynicism  brought  against  Thack- 
eray— his  defence — his  philosophy — the  text  from  which  he  preached — 
"  Vanitas  Vanitatum  " — the  gospel  of  love — Thackeray's  character 
criticised  by  his  contemporaries — he  created  no  heroes  or  heroines — 
his  desire  to  draw  men  and  women— his  characters  human — his 
portrait  gallery — the  novelist's  depreciators — his  faults  as  a  novelist 
— his  asides — his  method  of  writing — his  style — his  place  in  English 
literature. 


WHATEVER  the  cause,  it  is  a  fact  that 
at  the  beginning  of  1846  Thackeray's 
work  had  attracted  little  attention  beyond 
the  circle  of  his  friends  and  his  literary 
associates.  Indeed,  he  subsequently  remarked  that  he 
had  nearly  "come  to  forty  year"  before  he  was  recog- 
nised as  belonging  to  a  class  of  writer  at  all  above  the 
ordinary  contributor  to  the  magazines.     Certainly  the 

224 


ImwICl 


^ 


WILLIAM    MAKEPEACE    THACKERAY 
From  a  draining  by  Coiait  /XOrsny.     By  />erinissio>i  of  Major  M'illiain  It.  /.aiiil'cri 


iS47]  THACKERAY    IN    1846  225 

proprietor  of  Fraser's  Magazine^  though  valuing  him 
as  his  contributor,  never  thought  he  was  likely  to  be 
anything  more  than  that  :  ''When  a  little  time  before 
'  Vanity  Fair '  was  published,  I  had  asked  for  per- 
mission to  republish  some  tales  from  Fraser's  Magazine, 
it  was  given  to  me  with  a  smile — almost  an  ironical 
one,  as  much  as  to  say  '  Much  good  may  you  get  out 
of  them,'"  Thackeray  told  Sutherland  Edwards  some 
years  after  the  novel  had  made  a  success,  adding 
complacently,  ''They  bring  me  in  ;^300  a  year."^  In- 
deed, before  "Vanity  Fair"  appeared,  Thackeray 
realised  his  position  was  such  that  he  must  bear  in 
silence  and  with  a  good  grace  such  petty  rebuffs  and 
discouragement  as  fell  to  his  lot. 

I  have  just  received  and  acknowledge  with  many 
thanks  your  banker's  bill  for  £2.\.  From  them  and 
from  you,  I  shall  always  be  delighted  to  receive  com- 
munications of  this  nature  [he  wrote  on  October  16, 
1845,  to  Macvey  Napier,  the  editor  of  the  Edinhurgh 
RevieWy  concerning  the  article  on  N.  P.  Willis]. 
From  your  liberal  payment  I  can't  but  conclude  that 
you  reward  me  not  only  for  labouring,  but  also  for 
being  mutilated  in  your  service.  I  assure  you  I 
suffered  cruelly  by  the  amputation  which  you  were 
obliged  to  inflict  upon  my  poor  dear  paper.  I  mourn 
still — as  what  father  can  help  doing  for  his  children  ? 
— for  several  lovely  jokes  and  promising  facetice, 
which  were  born  and  might  have  lived  but  for  your 
scissors  urged  by  ruthless  necessity.  I  trust,  how- 
ever, that  there  are  many  more  which  the  future  may 
bring  forth,  and  which  will  meet  with  more  favour 
in  your  eyes.  ...  I  quite  agree  with  your  friend 
who  says  Willis  was  too  leniently  used.  O,  to  think 
of  my  pet  passages  gone  for  ever.^ 

^  H.  Sutherland  Edwards  :  Personal  Recollections,  p.  37. 
^  Selections  from  the  Correspondence  of  Macvey  Napier,  p.  499. 
I.— Q 


226    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

This  is  very  charming  in  its  playfulness,  but  it  is 
not  the  letter  of  a  man  who  has  arrived.  Consider 
in  what  terms  Thackeray  would  have  protested  three 
years  later  against  the  mutilation  of  any  review  written 
by  him  !  But  the  time  was  not  far  distant  when,  as 
John  Leech  happily  put  it,  Mr.  Michael  Angelo 
Titmarsh  was  to  appear  in  his  celebrated  character 
of  Mr.  Thackeray. 

Thackeray  owed  the  opportunity  to  emerge  from  his 
comparative  obscurity  to  his  connection  with  Punch. 
The  first  number  of  that  famous  periodical  appeared 
on  July  17,  1841  ;  and  soon  after,  to  quote  Shirley 
Brooks,  ''on  a  good  day  for  himself,  the  journal,  and 
the  world,  Thackeray  found  Punch.''''  Edward  Fitz- 
Gerald,  in  May  of  the  following  year,  begged  Thack- 
eray "  not  to  go  into  Punch  yet"  ;  but  fortunately  the 
latter  disregarded  this  advice — though  the  advice  was 
good  in  so  far  as  the  paper  at  the  start  had  been 
ridiculously  undercapitalised  by  the  three  owners,  and 
was  not  on  a  sound  basis  until  it  was  taken  over  by 
Messrs.  Bradbury  and  Evans. 

Within  a  few  weeks  of  FitzGerald's  warning,  in  the 
issue  for  June  18,  appeared  Thackeray's  first  contribu- 
tion, "The  Legend  of  Jawbrahim-Heraudee,"  a  skit 
on  John  Abraham  Heraud,  a  minor  poet  long  since 
forgotten,  who  was  once  assistant-editor  of  Frasei's 
Magazine.  "  Miss  Tickletoby's  Lectures  on  English 
History,"  which  until  recently  were  thought  to  be 
Thackeray's  earliest  work  for  the  paper,  did  not  begin 
until  a  fortnight  later.  These  "Lectures,"  which 
suggested  to  Gilbert  a  Beckett  and  John  Leech  the 
idea  of  the    "Comic   History   of  England"   and  the 


1848]      "MISS   TICKLETOBY'S   LECTURES"      227 

**  Comic  History  of  Rome,"  were  not  regarded  by 
the  proprietors  as  of  value  to  the  paper,  and,  receiv- 
ing a  hint  of  this,  Thackeray  forthwith  discontinued 
them. 

Your  letter  containing  an  enclosure  of  ^25  has 
been  forwarded  to  me,  and  I  am  obliged  to  you 
for  the  remittance  [he  wrote  on  September  27,  to 
Messrs.  Bradbury  and  Evans,  from  Halverstown, 
Kildare,  which  he  was  visiting  in  connection  with 
''The  Irish  Sketch  Book"].  Mr.  Lemon  had  pre- 
viously written  to  me  to  explain  the  delay,  and  I  had 
also  received  a  letter  from  Mr.  Landells  who  told  me 
what  I  was  sorry  to  learn,  that  you  were  dissatisfied 
with  my  contributions  to  Punch.  I  wish  that  my 
writings  had  the  good  fortune  to  please  every  one, 
but  all  I  can  do  however  is  to  do  my  best,  which  has 
been  done  in  this  case,  just  as  much  as  if  I  had  been 
writing  for  any  more  dignified  periodical. 

But  I  have  no  wish  to  continue  the  original  agree- 
ment made  between  us,  as  it  is  dissatisfactory  to  you, 
and  possibly  injurious  to  your  work ;  and  shall 
gladly  cease  Mrs.  \sic\  Tickletoby's  Lectures,  hoping 
that  you  will  be  able  to  supply  her  place  with  some 
more  amusing  and  lively  correspondent. 

I  shall  pass  the  winter  either  in  Paris  or  in 
London  where  very  probably  I  may  find  some  other 
matter  more  suitable  to  the  paper,  in  which  case  I 
shall  make  another  attempt  upon  Punch. 

Thackeray  soon  made  another  attempt  upon  Punchy 
but  not  for  some  time  with  anything  so  ambitious  as 
the  "  Lectures."  In  1843  he  contributed  merely  a  few 
short  pieces  and  some  pictorial  initial  letters,  but  his 
support  was  recognised  as  of  value  and  on  December  16 
he  took  Albert  Smith's  place  at  the  Round  Table.  For 
the  next  ten  years  he  printed  in  the  pages  of  Punch 
most  of  his  best  work  (except,  of  course,  his  novels), 


228    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

contributing,  with  a  fine  indifference,  thumbnail  draw- 
ings, ballads,  parodies,  caricatures,  political  skits, 
social  satires,  even  illustrations  to  other  authors'  work. 

The  next  year  (1844)  was  not  eventful  in  the  history 
of  Thackeray's  connection  with  Punchy  for  his  chief 
contributions  were  the  ''History  of  the  Next  French 
Revolution"  and  the  Fat  Contributor's  "Travelling 
Notes";  and  it  was  not  until  Mr.  Yellowplush  (who 
in  the  meantime  had  made  a  fortune  by  speculating 
in  railway  shares)  again  took  up  his  pen  and,  over  the 
signature  of  C.  Jeames  de  la  Pluche,  told  the  story  of 
his  adventures,  that  Thackeray  was  regarded  as  one 
of  the  principal  supporters  of  the  periodical.  The  first 
of  the  "Jeames  Papers"  appeared  on  August  16,  1845, 
and  the  last  instalment  of  the  "  Diary"  on  January  31, 
1846.  The  papers  were  topical  in  so  far  as  they  were 
a  warning  against  speculating  in  railway  shares  in  the 
"boom"  engineered  by  Hudson;  but,  though  this 
drew  attention  to  them,  it  was  the  quaint  humour  and 
social  satire  that  made  them  so  successful  that,  "A 
witless  version  of  his  adventures  had  been  produced  at 
the  Princess's  Theatre,  '  without  with  your  leaf  or  by 
your  leaf.'  "^ 

People  began  to  ask  who  was  the  author  of  "Jeames," 
and  Thackeray's  reputation  as  a  humorist  was  now 
made;  but  before  the  impression  made  by  the  "Diary" 
upon  the  readers  of  Punch  faded  away,  indeed  in  the 
number  following  that  containing  the  last  instalment 
of  the  "Diary,"  began  "The  Snobs  of  England," 
which  ran  week  by  week  until  February  27,  1847. 
These  amusing  papers  caught  the  fancy  of  the  public, 

^  Punch,  January  31,  1845. 


i848]  "THE   SNOBS   OF  ENGLAND"  229 

and  again  it  was  asked  who  was  the  writer.  When 
it  became  known  that  the  author  of  '*  Jeames's  Diary" 
and  of  ''The  Snobs  of  England"  was  one  and  the 
same  person,  Thackeray  was  regarded  as  a  person  of 
considerable  importance  in  literary  circles,  and  began 
to  taste  of  the  sweets  of  success.  The  author  never 
had  any  great  affection  for  the  ''Snob  Papers,"  and  in 
later  years  told  Motley  he  hated  them  and  could  not 
read  a  word  of  them  ;  but  when  he  was  writing  the 
series  he  was  interested  in  them,  and,  because  they 
sent  up  the  circulation  of  Punch,  he  was  persuaded  to 
continue  them  week  by  week  for  a  year.  It  has  been 
said  that  Thackeray  saw  snobbishness  everywhere  and 
in  everyone :  there  is  something  in  this  contention, 
and  colour  is  given  to  it  by  the  fact  that  when  "The 
Snobs  of  England "  were  issued  in  book-form  seven 
papers  were  suppressed  by  the  author,  because,  he 
wrote,  "  I  have  found  them  so  stupid,  so  personal,  so 
snobbish  in  a  word."  Of  the  philosophy  of  "The 
Book  of  Snobs"  something  will  presently  be  said, 
but  the  papers  may  be  read  independently  of  their 
purpose,  for  they  contain  many  delightful  passages 
instinct  with  humour.  Is  there  anything  better  in  its  way 
in  any  of  Thackeray's  writings  than  this  conversation 
between  the  Club  Snob,  Captain  Spitfire,  r.n.  ("who 
has  been  refused  a  ship  by  the  Whigs,  by  the  way  "), 
and  Mr.  Minns,  who  ever  after  followed  Spitfire  about, 
thinking  him  the  greatest  and  wisest  of  human  beings? 

"Why  wasn't  the  Princess  Scragamoffsky  at 
Lady  Palmerston's  party,  Minns?  Because  she 
can't  show — and  why  can't  she  show?  Shall  I  tell 
you,  Minns,  why  she  can't  show?    The  Princess 


230    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

Scragamoffsky's  back  is  flayed  alive,  Minns — I 
tell  you  it's  raw,  Sir  !  On  Tuesday  last,  at  twelve 
o'clock,  three  drummers  of  the  Preobajinsk  regiment 
arrived  at  Ashburnham  House,  and  at  half-past 
twelve,  in  the  yellow  drawing-room  at  the  Russian 
Embassy,  before  the  Ambassadress  and  four  ladies'- 
maids,  the  Greek  Papa,  and  the  Secretary  of  Em- 
bassy, Madame  de  Scragamoffsky  received  thirteen 
dozen.  She  was  knouted.  Sir — knouted  in  the  midst 
of  England — in  Berkeley  Square,  for  having  said  the 
Grand  Duchess  Olga's  hair  was  red.  And  Now, 
Sir,  you  tell  me  Lord  Palmerston  ought  to  continue 
Minister?" 
Minns:  ''Good  God  !"i 

Having  at  last  made  a  reputation,  Thackeray,  who 
had  long  since  convinced  himself  of  his  powers,  real- 
ised that  now,  if  ever,  was  the  time  to  lift  himself  out 
of  the  ranks  of  the  magazine  writers,  and  to  make  a 
supreme  effort  to  take  his  place  as  one  of  the  heads  of 
his  calling.  "  My  boy,  I  think  you  can  write  a  maga- 
zine article,  and  turn  out  a  pretty  copy  of  verses," 
Warrington  is  made  to  say  to  Pendennis,  to  which  the 
latter  replies:  "By  Jove!  I'll  show  you  that  I  am  a 
better  man  than  you  think  for."  For  Pendennis  may 
be  read  Thackeray,  who  was  resolved  to  show  the 
world  there  was  more  in  him  than  it  gave  him  credit 
for ;  this  resolve  resulted  in  the  publication  in  January 
1847  of  the  first  number  of  "Vanity  Fair." 

A  general  belief  exists  to  this  day  that  "Vanity  Fair" 
was  hawked  round  the  town,  and  offered  and  rejected 
here  and  there,  before  Messrs.  Bradbury  and  Evans, 
the  proprietors  of  Punchy  undertook  its  publication. 
Statements  to  this  effect  have    been    made   by  many 

^  The  Snobs  of  England — Club  Snobs. 


i848]  "VANITY  FAIR"  231 

writers.  Anthony  Trollope  stated  that  the  monthly 
nurses  of  periodical  literature  did  not  see  their  way  to 
accept  "Vanity  Fair"  as  a  serial,  and  that  publishers 
fought  shy  of  it ;  Sir  Frank  T.  Marzials  has  remarked 
that  '* '  Vanity  Fair  '  itself,  '  Vanity  Fair,'  one  of  the  un- 
questioned masterpieces  of  English  Literature "  was 
refused  by  the  New  Monthly  Magazme ;  and  Lady 
Ritchie  speaks  of  the  journeys  the  manuscript  made 
to  various  publishers  before  it  found  a  firm  ready  to 
undertake  the  venture.  These  statements  presuppose 
that  the  manuscript  was  complete,  but  this  was  not 
the  case.  The  idea  of  *' Vanity  Fair"  first  came  to 
Thackeray  when  he  and  his  wife  were  living  in  Great 
Coram  Street,  and  there,  indeed,  the  story  was  begun. 

So  your  poor  Titmarsh  has  made  another  fiasco 
[he  wrote  early  in  1841  to  the  friend  who  saw  "  The 
Second  Funeral  of  Napoleon  "  through  the  press]. 
How  are  we  to  take  the  great  stupid  public  by  the 
ears?  Never  mind  ;  I  think  I  have  something  which 
will  surprise  them  yet.  ^ 

This,  the  recipient  of  the  letter  remarks,  and  none 
will  dispute,  was  a  reference  to  "Vanity  Fair";  but 
Thackeray  did  not  make  much  progress  with  the  book, 
for  when,  some  time  within  the  next  four  years,  he 
offered  it  to  Colburn  for  the  New  Monthly  Magazine^ 
he  had  only  drafted  some  chapters,  which  were  shown 
to  that  publisher  as  the  beginning  of  a  story,  of  which 
even  the  length  was  not  then  determined. ^  "Pencil 
Sketches  of  English  Society,"  it  was  called  then,  for 
the  author  had  not  yet  thought  of  the  famous  title, 

'  Cor nhill  Magazine,  January  1866. 
"^  J.  C.  Hotten  :  Thackeray. 


232    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

which  occurred  to  him  suddenly  in  the  middle  of  the 
night  when  he  was  writing  some  of  the  first  numbers  at 
the  ''  Old  Ship  "  at  Brighton.  ''  I  jumped  out  of  bed," 
he  told  Miss  Perry,  "and  ran  three  times  round  my 
room,  uttering  as  I  went,  'Vanity  Fair',  'Vanity 
Fair',  'Vanity  Fair'!"i 

Thackeray's  contributions  to  the  JVew  Monthly  Maga- 
zine, with  the  exception  of  "  Major  Gahagan,"  had  not 
included  any  of  his  best  work,  and  so  he  was  not  highly 
valued  by  the  publisher,  who  would  have  nothing  to  do 
with  "Pencil  Sketches  of  English  Society."  Thackeray 
did  not  abandon  the  idea  of  the  novel,  but  he  was  too 
busy  writing  for  the  periodicals  to  spend  time  on  a 
work  that  might  not  be  lucrative  ;  and  it  was  only  after 
"The  Snobs  of  England  "  brought  him  some  degree  of 
popularity,  that  he  made  another,  and  this  time  a  suc- 
cessful, effort  to  arrange  for  the  publication  of  the 
novel.  One  day  late  in  1846  Thackeray  called  at 
Henry  Vizetelly's  offices  in  Peterborough  Court,  and 
showed  him  the  manuscript  of  the  first  chapters  of  the 
book,  and  some  drawings  for  it,  which  he  had  brought 
with  him  to  show  Messrs.  Bradbury  and  Evans.  "  In 
little  more  than  half  an  hour,"  Vizetelly  has  recorded 
in  his  autobiography,  "Thackeray  again  made  his 
appearance,  and,  with  a  beaming  face,  gleefully  in- 
formed me  that  he  had  settled  the  business.  '  Brad- 
bury and  Evans,'  he  said,  '  accepted  so  readily  that  I  am 
deuced  sorry  I  didn't  ask  them  for  another  tenner.  I 
am  certain  they  would  have  given  it.'  He  then  ex- 
plained that  he  had  named  fifty  guineas  per  part, 
including  the  two  sheets  of  letter-press,   a  couple  of 

^  A  Collection  of  Letters  of  W.  M.  Thackeray,  p.  178. 


1848]  THE   FIRST   NUMBER  233 

etchings,  and  the  initials  at  the  commencement  of  the 
chapters.  He  reckoned  the  text,  I  remember,  at  no 
more  than  five-and-twenty  shillings  a  page,  the  two 
etchings  at  six  guineas  each,  while  as  for  the  few  initials 
at  the  beginning  of  the  chapters,  he  threw  those  in. 
Such  was  Mr.  Thackeray's  own  estimate  of  his  com- 
mercial value  as  an  author  and  engraver,  a.d.  1846. 
I  know  perfectly  well  that  after  the  publication  com- 
menced much  of  the  remainder  of  the  work  was  written 
under  pressure  for  and  from  the  printer,  and  not  in- 
frequently the  first  instalment  of  *  copy '  needed  to  fill 
the  customary  thirty-two  pages  was  penned  while  the 
printer's  boy  was  waiting  in  the  hall  at  Young  Street."^ 
It  was  arranged  that  "  Vanity  Fair,"  after  the  manner 
of  the  works  of  Dickens  and  Lever,  should  be  pub- 
lished in  monthly  numbers,  and  that  the  first  should 
appear  in  January  1847.  Thackeray,  while  confident 
of  the  merits  of  the  novel,  was,  however,  anxious  as  to 
its  success,  and  thought  an  article  in  Blackwood's 
Magazine  might  help  to  increase  its  circulation. 

I  think  [he  wrote  on  January  2  to  William  Edmon- 
stone  Aytoun — "Sweeter  Piper  Edina  never  knew 
than  Aytoun,  the  Bard  of  the  Cavaliers "  -J  I  have 
never  had  any  ambition  hitherto,  or  cared  whether 
the  world  thought  my  work  good  or  bad  ;  but  now 
the  truth  forces  itself  upon  me,  if  the  world  will  once 
take  to  admiring  Titmarsh,  all  his  guineas  will  be 
multiplied  by  ten.  Guineas  are  good.  I  have  got 
children,  only  ten  years  more  to  the  fore,  say,  etc.; 
now  is  the  time,  my  lad,  to  make  your  A  when  the 
sun  at  length  has  begun  to  shine. 

^  Henry   Vizetelly  :    Glances   Back   through   Seventy    Years,    Vol.    I, 
pp.  284-5. 

"^  On  Alexandrines. 


234    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

Well,  I  think  if  I  can  make  a  push  at  the  present 
minute — if  my  friends  will  shout,  Titmarsh  for  ever  ! 
hurrah  for,  etc.,  etc.,  I  may  go  up  with  a  run  to  a 
pretty  fair  place  in  my  trade,  and  be  allowed  to 
appear  before  the  public  among  the  first  fiddles. 
But  my  tunes  must  be  heard  in  the  streets,  and  organs 
must  grind  them.     Ha  !     Now  do  you  read  me? 

Why  don't  Blackwood  give  me  an  article  ?  Because 
he  refused  the  best  story  I  ever  wrote?  [''The 
Great  Hoggarty  Diamond."]  Colburn  refused  the 
present  "  Novel  without  a  Hero,"  and  if  any  man  at 
Blackwood's  or  Colburn's,  and  if  any  man  since — 
fiddle-de-dee.  Upon  my  word  and  honour  I  never 
said  so  much  about  myself  before  :  but  I  know  this,  if 
I  had  the  command  of  Blackwood^  and  a  humouristical 
person  like  Titmarsh  should  come  up,  and  labour 
hard  and  honestly  (please  God)  for  ten  years,  I  would 
give  him  a  hand.  Now,  try,  like  a  man,  revolving 
these  things  in  your  soul,  and  see  if  you  can't  help 
me.  .  .  .  And  if  I  can  but  save  a  little  money,  by  the 
Lord  !  I'll  try  and  keep  it.  .  .  .  Between  this  line 
and  the  above  a  man  has  brought  me  the  Times  on 
*'  The  Battle  of  Life."  'Appy  Dickens  !  But  I  love 
Pickwick  and  Crummies  too  much  to  abuse  this 
great  man.  Aliqiiando  bonus.  And  you,  young 
man,  coming  up  in  the  world  full  of  fight,  take 
counsel  from  a  venerable  and  peaceful  old  gladiator 
who  has  stripped  for  many  battles.  Gad,  sir,  this 
caution  is  a  very  good  sign.  Do  you  remember  how 
complimentary  Scott  and  Goethe  were?  I  like  the 
patriarchal  air  of  some  people.^ 

Thackeray  was  always  willing  to  help  other  writers, 
when  it  was  possible,  by  reviewing  their  books  in 
Eraser's  Magazine  or  elsewhere  ;  and  his  acquaintances 
were  eager  to  avail  themselves  of  this  assistance. 

Don't  be  displeased  at  my  not  reviewing  you  [he 
wrote  to  Mr.  Bedingfield  in  1847].     By  jove,  I  have 

1  Sir  Theodore  Martin  :  Life  ofW.  E.  Aytoun,  pp.  132-3. 


1848]  PROFESSOR   AYTOUN  235 

not  time  to  do  half  what  I  ought  to  do,  and  have  books 
upon  books  on  my  table  at  this  minute — all  the  works 
of  private  friends  who  want  a  criticism. 

It  is  one  thing  to  give  a  puff,  however,  and  another 
to  ask  for  it  ;  and  when  Thackeray,  who  had  written  on 
impulse  to  Aytoun,  reflected  upon  his  request,  his  pride 
would  not  permit  that  his  work  should  attain  success 
save  directly  through  its  merits. 

I  have  been  thinking  of  the  other  matter  on  which 
I  unbosomed  myself  to  you,  and  withdraw  my  former 
letter  [he  wrote  to  Aytoun  on  January  13].  Puffs  are 
good  and  the  testimony  of  good  men  ;  but  I  don't 
think  these  will  make  a  success  for  a  man,  and  he 
ought  to  stand  as  the  public  chooses  to  put  him.  I 
will  try,  please  God,  to  do  my  best,  and  the  money 
will  come,  perhaps,  some  day  !  Meanwhile  a  man  so 
lucky  as  myself  has  no  cause  to  complain.  So  let  all 
puffing  alone,  though,  as  you  know,  I  am  glad  if  I 
can  have,  and  deserve,  your  good  opinion.  The 
women  like  '*  Vanity  Fair,"  I  find,  very  much,  and 
the  publishers  are  quite  in  good  spirits  regarding 
that  venture.  This  is  all  I  have  to  say — in  the  soli- 
tude of  midnight,  with  a  quiet  cigar,  and  the  weakest 
gin  and  water  in  the  world,  ruminating  over  a  child's 
ball,  from  which  I  have  just  come,  having  gone  as 
chaperone  to  my  little  girls.  One  of  them  had  her 
hair  plaited  in  two  tails,  the  other  had  ringlets  and 
the  most  fascinating  bows  of  blue  ribbon.  It  was  very 
merry  and  likewise  sentimental.  We  went  in  a  fly 
quite  genteel,  and  law  !  what  a  comfort  it  was  when  it 
was  over.     Adyou.^ 

*'  I  wonder  whether  this  will  take,  the  publishers 
accept  it,  and  the  world  read  it,"  Thackeray  said  when 
he  was  writing  the  early  chapters  of  "Vanity  Fair"; 
and  though  the  publishers  accepted,  it  seemed  doubtful 

^  Sir  Theodore  Martin  :  Life  of  W.  E,  Aytoun,  p.  134. 


236    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

if  the  world  would  read  it.  The  first  numbers  failed  to 
attract  attention,  and  the  question  of  stopping  the 
publication  was  actually  mooted.  Fortunately,  later  in 
the  year,  the  sale  increased  by  leaps  and  bounds,  and 
the  success  of  the  venture  was  assured.  There  has 
been  much  speculation  as  to  the  cause  of  this  change 
from  failure  to  brilliant  success  ;  and  many  reasons 
have  been  suggested.  Some  have  it  that  the  success 
resulted  from  a  eulogistic  article  in  the  Edinburgh 
Review  for  January,  1S48  ;  while  others  insist  that  it  was 
effected  by  "  Currer  Bell's"  dedication  to  Thackeray, 
prefixed  to  the  second  edition  of  "Jane  Eyre." 
Thackeray  thought  the  publication  of  his  Christmas 
Book  "  Mrs.  Perkins's  Ball  "  had  much  to  do  with  it. 

No  doubt  the  review,  the  dedication  especially,  and 
the  Christmas  Book,  each  and  all  gave  an  impetus  to 
the  sale  of  the  novel  ;  but  the  simplest  and  most  probable 
explanation  of  the  rise  in  circulation  of  the  shilling 
numbers  is  that  the  book  increases  in  interest  as  it  goes 
on.  This  was  FitzGerald's  belief.  "  Thackeray  is  pro- 
gressing greatly  in  his  line  :  he  publishes  a  novel  in 
Nos. — '  Vanity  Fair ' — which  began  dull  I  thought,  but 
gets  better  every  number."  However,  not  everyone 
found  the  earlier  parts  dull.  "  Don't  get  nervous  or  think 
about  criticism  or  trouble  yourself  about  the  opinions  of 
friends,"  Abraham  Hayward  wrote  after  two  or  three 
numbers  had  come  out;  "you  have  completely  beaten 
Dickens  out  of  the  inner  circle  already."  And  Mrs. 
Carlyle  wrote  in  September  (1847)  to  her  husband  :  "  I 
brought  away  the  last  four  numbers  of  'Vanity  Fair,' 
and  read  one  of  them  during  the  night.  Very  good 
indeed,  beats  Dickens  out  of  the  world." 


1848]     THE   SUCCESS   OF   "VANITY   FAIR"     237 

People  at  this  time  were  accustomed  to  buy  their 
fiction  in  the  green  and  pink  covered  monthly  parts 
containing,  respectively,  the  novels  of  Dickens  and 
Lever  ;  and  they  did  not  at  first  take  kindly  to  the  less 
exciting,  though  more  artistic,  sketches  of  English 
society  offered  in  the  yellow  wrappers.  Even  during 
the  time  of  the  greatest  success  of  the  monthly  issue 
of  "Vanity  Fair,"  only  about  7000  copies  of  a  number 
were  sold,  while  the  circulation  of  the  parts  of  Dickens's 
novels  was  frequently  so  much  as  20,000  or  25,000. 
Indeed,  Thackeray  never  approached  Dickens  in  the 
matter  of  sales,  not  even  in  America  where  his  works 
have  always  been  popular.  Entering  a  bookstore  in 
South  Carolina,  Thackeray  enquired  how  many  copies 
of  "The  Newcomes"  had  been  sold.  He  was  in- 
formed that  they  had  taken  300  and  that  200  more  had 
been  ordered.  He  then  asked  how  many  copies  of 
"  Bleak  House"  had  been  sold  ;  and  was  told  that  the 
first  order  had  been  for  500,  and  the  repeat  order  for 
600  copies.  "  I  ask  these  questions  wherever  I  go," 
he  said,  "and  the  answers  are  the  same  everywhere." 
He  insisted  that  five  copies  of  Dickens's  books  sold  for 
every  one  of  his. 

It  is  quite  conceivable  that  "  Currer  Bell's"  dedica- 
tion (dated  December  21,  1847)  hastened  the  general 
recognition  of  the  genius  of  Thackeray  ;  for  the  cir- 
culation of  "Jane  Eyre,"  the  book  of  the  year,  was 
very  large.  The  dedication  is  interesting,  not  only 
as  being  characteristic  of  the  writer,  but  as  one  of  the 
first  appreciations  of  Thackeray  that  appeared  in  print. 
"There  is  a  man  in  our  days  whose  words  are  not 
framed  to  tickle  delicate  ears  :  who,  to  my  thinking, 


238    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

comes  before  the  great  ones  of  society — much  as  the 
son  of  Imlah  comes  before  the  throned  Kings  of  Judah 
and  Israel ;  and  who  speaks  truth  as  deep,  with  a 
power  as  prophet-like  and  as  vital — a  mien  as  daunt- 
less and  as  daring.  Is  the  satirist  of  'Vanity  Fair' 
admired  in  high  places?  I  cannot  tell ;  but  I  think  if 
some  of  those  amongst  whom  he  hurls  the  Greek  fire  of 
his  sarcasm,  and  over  whom  he  flashes  the  levinbrand 
of  his  denunciation,  were  to  take  his  warnings  in  time, 
they  or  their  seed  might  yet  escape  a  fatal  Ramoth- 
Gilead.  Why  have  I  alluded  to  this  man?  I  have 
alluded  to  him.  Reader,  because  I  think  I  see  in  him 
an  intellect  profounder  and  more  unique  than  his  con- 
temporaries have  yet  recognised  ;  because  I  regard 
him  as  the  first  social  regenerator  of  the  day — as  the 
very  master  of  that  working  corps  who  would  restore 
to  rectitude  the  warped  system  of  things  ;  because  I 
think  no  commentator  in  his  writings  has  yet  found 
the  comparison  that  suits  him,  the  terms  which  rightly 
characterise  his  talent.  They  say  he  is  like  Fielding  ; 
they  talk  of  his  wit,  humour,  comic  powers.  He  re- 
sembles Fielding,  as  an  eagle  does  a  vulture  :  Fielding 
could  swoop  on  carrion,  but  Thackeray  never  does. 
His  wit  is  bright,  his  humour  attractive,  but  both  bear 
the  same  relation  to  his  serious  genius  that  lambent 
steel  lightning  playing  under  the  edge  of  the  summer 
cloud  does  to  the  electric  death-spark  hid  in  its  womb. 
Finally,  I  have  alluded  to  Mr.  Thackeray  because  to 
him — if  he  will  accept  the  tribute  of  a  total  stranger — 
I  have  dedicated  this  second  edition  of  'Jane  Eyre.' " 

After  a   few   numbers   of    "Vanity    Fair"   had   ap- 
peared, it  was  suggested  to  Abraham  Hayward  that 


i848]  HAYWARD'S   EULOGY  239 

he  should  write  about  the  novel  in  the  Edinburgh 
Review ;  but,  though  willing  to  do  so,  he  was  so  busy 
that  he  would  not  bind  himself  to  write  the  paper  : 
thereupon  Mrs.  Procter  undertook  to  mark  passages 
that  might  be  usefully  quoted  ;  and  at  last  Hayward 
consented,  basing  the  review  upon  the  notes  supplied 
to  him.  There  can  be  no  doubt  of  the  service  Hayward 
rendered.  The  article  is  on  the  whole  appreciative, 
though  here  and  there  it  seems  as  if  the  reviewer  had 
been  afraid  that  his  enthusiasm  was  too  great.  "  Full 
many  a  valuable  truth  has  been  sent  undulating 
through  the  air  by  men  who  have  lived  and  died  un- 
known," he  wrote.  ''At  the  present  moment  the 
rising  generation  are  supplied  with  the  best  of  their 
mental  aliment  by  writers  whose  names  are  a  dead  letter 
to  the  mass  ;  and  among  the  most  remarkable  of  these 
is  Michael  Angelo  Titmarsh,  alias  William  Make- 
peace Thackeray.  ...  A  writer  with  such  a  pen  as 
Mr.  Thackeray's  is  an  acquisition  of  real  and  high 
value  in  our  literature.  High  life,  middle  life,  and 
low  life  are  (or  very  soon  will  be)  pretty  nearly  the 
same  to  him  ;  he  has  fancy  as  well  as  feeling  :  he  can 
laugh  or  cry  without  grimacing :  he  can  skim  the 
surface,  and  he  can  penetrate  to  the  core.  Let  the 
public  give  him  encouragement,  and  let  him  give  him- 
self time,  and  we  can  fearlessly  prophesy  that  he  will 
soon  become  one  of  the  acknowledged  heads  of  his 
own  peculiar  walk  of  literature.  .  .  .  'Vanity  Fair'  is 
assured  of  immortality  as  ninety-nine  hundredths  of 
modern  novels  are  sure  of  annihilation." 

It  was  after  the  publication  of  "Vanity  Fair"  that 


240    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

the  charge  of  cynicism  first  suggested  by  "  The  Second 
Funeral  of  Napoleon  "  was  seriously,  and  for  so  many 
years  persistently,  brought  against  Thackeray,  though 
it  was  left  for  Edmund  Yates  eleven  years  later  to 
declare  that  the  novelist  "wrote  himself  'cynic' — for 
it  pays."  To-day,  however,  Thackeray's  admirers  are 
more  concerned  to  defend  their  literary  hero  against  the 
charge  of  sentimentalism  than  against  that  of  cynicism, 
yet  so  often  has  the  latter  accusation  been  repeated, 
that  it  is  impossible  altogether  to  ignore  it.  Thackeray 
smarted  under  the  indictment:  "They  call  the  man 
who  wrote  that  a  cyiiic"  he  exclaimed  one  evening, 
when  he  had  read  to  some  young  men  "The  Curate's 
Walk  "  ;  and  those  who  understand  him  can  detect  the 
ring  of  bitterness  in  his  voice  as  he  asks  : 

Are  authors  affected  by  their  own  works  ?  I  don't 
know  about  other  gentlemen,  but  if  I  make  a  joke 
myself  I  cry  ;  if  I  am  writing  a  pathetic  scene,  I  am 
laughing  wildly  all  the  time — at  least  Tomkins  thinks 
so.     You  know  I  am  such  a  cynic.^ 

Is  the  man   a  cynic  who  wrote  continually  in  the 
following  strain? 

We  advance  in  simplicity  and  honesty  as  we  ad- 
vance in  civilisation,  and  it  is  my  belief  that  we 
become  better  bred  and  less  artificial,  and  tell  more 
truth  every  day.^ 

Thanks  be  to  Heaven,  there  are  good  Samaritans 
in  pretty  large  numbers  in  the  world,  and  hands 
ready  enough  to  succour  a  man  in  misfortune.^ 

1  On  a  Peal  of  Bells. 

^  Mr.  Brown's  Letters — Brown  the  Younger  at  a  Club, 

*  Philip,  chap.  xxi. 


1848]  THE   CHARGE   OF   CYNICISM  241 

Is  the  man  a  cynic  who,  waxing  satirical  at  the  pomp 
of  the  second  funeral  of  Napoleon,  becomes  tender  at 
the  thought  of  the  mother  spending  a  few  of  her  hard- 
earned  sous  on  a  wreath  for  the  little  child's  grave  ;  or 
he  who,  growling  at  cringing  Nudgit,  smiles  approval 
of  the  quiet  independence  of  Goldsworthy  ?^  But  if  it 
be  cynical  to  believe  that 

Wherever  shines  the  sun  you  are  sure  to  find 
Folly  basking  in  it  ;  and  Knavery  is  the  shadow  at 
Folly's  heels ;  - 

if  it  be  cynical  to  declare  that  grief  for  a  departed 
relative  will  not  last  for  ever,  or  that  if  the  deceased 
leave  you  a  fortune  you  will,  after  the  first  pangs  are 
over  in  some  degree,  be  more  reconciled  to  the  loss, 
why,  if  these  truisms  be  cynicisms,  then,  but  then  only, 
Thackeray  was  a  cynic. 

If  it  is  difficult  to  take  this  charge  seriously,  the 
statement  which  often  accompanies  it,  that  in  Thack- 
eray's eyes  all  was  vanity,  though  equally  indefensible, 
cannot  be  so  lightly  dismissed,  for  it  opens  up  the 
question  of  Thackeray's  philosophy.  Thackeray  looked 
upon  the  world  with  eyes  that  saw  more  than  is  vouch- 
safed to  the  sight  of  most  men  ;  and  from  an  early  age 
he  saw  humbug  writ  large  in  many  things  which  less 
clear-minded  persons  took  in  good  faith. 

I  read  the  other  day  in  the  papers — Hier  S.M.  a 
envoye  complimenter  V Anihassadeur  de  V Autriche  sur 
la  mort  du  Due  de  Reichstadt  [he  wrote  to  his  mother 
from  Paris  just  after  he  came  of  age].  It  is  as  fine 
a  text  for  a  sermon  as  any  in  the  Bible — this  poor 
young   man   dying,   as  many  say,    of    poison,    and 

1  Mr.  Bro7V7i's  Letters — Brown  the  Yotaiger  at  a  Club. 
^  Captain  Rook  ayid  Mr.  PigeoJi. 
I. — R 


242    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

L(ouis)  P(hilippe)  presenting  his  compliments  on 
the  occasion.  Oh,  Genius,  Glory,  Ambition,  what 
ought  you  to  learn  from  this?  and  what  might  I  not 
teach,  only  I  am  hungry  and  going — to  breakfast  !  ^ 

In  this  letter  may  be  detected  some  of  the  germs 
from  which  sprang  the  feeling  that  in  later  days  in- 
spired him  to  preach  his  weekday  sermons  against 
pride  of  purse,  and  birth,  and  place,  against 
haughtiness,  and  against  those  who  meanly  admire 
mean  things. 

I  am  sick  of  Court  Circulars.  I  loathe  haut-ton 
intelligence.  I  believe  such  words  as  Fashionable, 
Exclusive,  Aristocratic,  and  the  like  to  be  wicked 
epithets,  that  ought  to  be  banished  from  honest 
vocabularies.  A  court  system  that  sends  men  of  \ 
genius  to  the  second  table  I  hold  to  be  a  Snobbish 
system.  A  Society  that  sets  up  to  be  polite,  and 
ignores  Art  and  Letters,  I  hold  to  be  a  Snobbish 
Society.  You,  who  despise  your  neighbour,  are  a 
Snob ;  you,  who  forget  your  friends,  meanly  to 
follow  after  those  of  higher  degree,  are  a  Snob  ; 
you,  who  are  ashamed  of  your  poverty,  and  blush 
for  your  calling,  are  a  Snob ;  as  you  who  boast 
of  your  pedigree,  or  are  proud  of  your  wealth.^ 

From  the  novelist  the  reader  has  no  right  to  demand   ; 
more  than  a  well-written  or  interesting  tale,  but  from 
the  satirist  he  expects  more  than  a  story.     Thackeray 
has  outlined  the  aims  of  the  school  of  authors  of  which 
he  was  so  prominent  a  disciple. 

The  humorous  writer  professes  to  awaken  and 
direct  your  love,  your  pity,  your  kindness — your 
scorn  for  untruth,  pretension,  imposture  —  your 
tenderness  for  the  weak,  the  poor,    the   oppressed, 

'  Merivale  and  Marzials  :  Thackeray,  p.  93. 
-  The  Snobs  of  England,  chapter  last. 


1848]  THACKERAY'S   SERMON  243 

the  unhappy.  To  the  best  of  his  means  and  ability- 
he  comments  on  all  the  ordinary  actions  and  passions 
of  life  almost.  He  takes  upon  himself  to  be  the 
weekday  preacher,  so  to  speak. ^ 

What,  then,    we  naturally  ask,   was   the  text   from 

which  Thackeray  preached  ?  and  the  answer  is  to  be 

found  in  the  verses  he  wrote  when  he  had  come  to  fifty 

years. 

O  Vanity  of  Vanities, 

How  wayward  the  decrees  of  Fate  are  ; 
How  very  weak  the  very  wise, 

How  very  small  the  very  great  are  ! 

What  mean  these  stale  moralities, 

Sir  Preacher,  from  your  desk  you  mumble  ? 

Why  rail  against  the  great  and  wise. 

And  tire  us  with  your  ceaseless  grumble  ? 

Pray  choose  us  out  another  text, 
O  man  morose  and  narrow-minded  ! 

Come  turn  the  page — I  read  the  next. 
And  then  the  next,  and  still  I  find  it. 

Read  here  how  Wealth  aside  was  thrust, 

And  Folly  set  in  place  exalted  ; 
How  Princes  footed  in  the  dust 

While  lacqueys  in  the  saddle  vaulted. 

Though  thrice  a  thousand  years  are  past 
Since  David's  son,  the  sad  and  splendid, 

The  weary  King  Ecclesiast, 

Upon  his  awful  tablets  penned  it, — 

Methinks  the  text  is  never  stale. 

And  life  is  every  day  renewing 
Fresh  comments  on  the  old  old  tale 

Of  Folly,  Fortune,  Glory,  Ruin.^ 

^  English  Humourists — Swift.  -  Vanitas  Vanitatum. 


244    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

There,  in  small  compass,  is  the  sermon  that  Thackeray 
preached  day  by  day  from  his  pulpit.  The  world 
seemed  to  him  a  sad  place,  more  melancholy  than 
mirthful ;  and  even  when  in  his  great  prose  epic  he 
gives  his  hero  his  wish, 

Oh  !   Vanitas  Vanitatiim  !  [he  cries]     Which  of  us  , 
is  happy  in  this  world?  which  of  us  has  his  desire? 
or,  having  it,  is  satisfied?^ 

Though,  it  will  be  seen,  he  went  freely  into  society, 
and  took  his  full  share  of  the  pleasures  of  the  world,  he 
passed  through  life  a  spectator — as  someone  put  it 
happily,  a  dignified  Dobbin  in  the  larger  Vanity  Fair 
— bewailing  the  faults  and  follies  of  mankind,  and 
roused  only  from  the  tender  chiding  of  his  fellows  when 
he  saw  a  man  bullying  a  woman,  a  woman  taking 
advantage  of  her  weakness  to  belabour  a  man,  or  any 
one  person  taking  unfair  advantage  of  another. 

People  there  are  living  and  flourishing  in  the 
world  .  .  .  with  no  reverence  except  for  prosperity, 
and  no  eye  for  anything  beyond  success — faithless, 
hopeless,  charityless.  Let  us  have  at  them,  dear 
friends,  with  might  and  main.- 

To  Thackeray  all  was  not  vanity.  "He  could  not| 
have  painted  'Vanity  Fair'  as  he  has  unless  Eden: 
had  been  in  his  inner  eye,"  George  Brimley  has  written;] 
and  it  is  certain  that  Thackeray  was  the  first  to  respect| 
and  bow  down  before  such  qualities  as  virtue,  simplicity, 
bravery,  and  unselfishness.  When  the  Rev.  Joseph  | 
Sortain  sent  a  volume  of  his  sermons  to  the  novelist,, 
the  latter,  writing  in  acknowledgment  of  the  gift,  enun-| 
ciated  his  aims  as  a  writer. 

^  Vanity  Fair.  ^  Ibid, 


i848]  HIS   AIM   AS   A   WRITER  245 

I  shall  value  your  book  very  much,  not  only  as  the 
work  of  the  most  accomplished  orator  I  have  ever 
heard  in  my  life,  but,  if  you  will  let  me  so  take  it,  as 
a  token  of  good-will  and  interest  on  your  part  in  my 
own  literary  pursuits  [he  wrote  on  May  15,  1850].  I 
want,  too,  to  say,  in  my  way,  that,  love  and  truth 
are  the  greatest  of  Heaven's  commandments  and 
blessings  to  us  ;  that  the  best  of  us,  the  many  espe- 
cially who  pride  themselves  on  their  virtue  most,  are 
wretchedly  weak,  vain  and  selfish  ;  and  to  preach 
such  a  charity  at  least  as  a  common  sense  of  our 
shame  and  unworthiness  might  inspire,  to  us  poor 
people.  I  hope  men  of  my  profession  do  no  harm, 
who  talk  this  doctrine  out  of  doors  to  people  in 
drawing-rooms  and  in  the  world.  Your  duty  in 
church  takes  them  a  step  higher,  that  awful  step 
beyond  ethics  which  leads  you  up  to  God's  revealed 
truth.  What  a  tremendous  responsibility  his  is  who 
has  that  mystery  to  explain  !  What  a  boon  the  faith 
which  makes  it  clear  to  him  !  ^ 

Five  years  later,  when  "The  Newcomes "  was 
attacked  by  the  Times  for  its  ''morality  and  religion," 
he  invited  Whitwell  Elwin  to  defend  him  in  the 
Quarterly  Review. 

With  regard  to  religion,  I  think,  please  God,  my 
books  are  written  by  a  God-loving  man,  and  the 
morality — the  vanity  of  success,  etc.,  of  all  but  love 
and  goodness, — is  not  that  the  teaching  Domini 
nostri?'^ 

In  "  Vanitas  Vanitatum,"  quoted  above,  Thackeray 
perhaps  puts  forth  the  more  depressing  side  of  his 
creed,  and  it  is  to  another  set  of  verses  that  the  student 
of  his  philosophy  must  turn  to  see  the  bright  side. 
In  "  The  End  of  the  Play  "  Thackeray  tells 

'  Memorials  of  the  Rev.  Joseph  Sortain. 

*  Whitwell  Elwin  :  Some  Eighteenth  Century  Men  of  Letters. 


246    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

.    .    .    how  fate  may  change  and  shift ; 

The  prize  be  sometimes  with  the  fool, 

The  race  not  always  to  the  swift. 

The  strong  may  yield,  the  good  may  fall, 

The  great  man  be  a  vulgar  clown. 

The  knave  be  lifted  over  all, 

The  kind  cast  pitilessly  down  ; 

but,  he  preached, 

Come  wealth  or  want,  come  good  or  ill. 
Let  young  and  old  accept  their  part, 
And  bow  before  the  Awful  Will, 
And  bear  it  with  an  honest  heart. 
Who  misses,  or  who  wins  the  prize  ? 
Go,  lose  or  conquer  as  you  can  : 
But  if  you  fail,  or  if  you  rise. 
Be  each,  pray  God,  a  gentleman. 

It  has  been  said,  and  with  truth,  that  Thackeray 
preached  from  the  text  that  the  wisdom  of  this  world  is 
foolishness  with  God  ;  and  this  undoubtedly  was  one 
of  the  articles  of  his  creed.  There  was,  however,  another 
in  which  he  believed  with  his  whole  heart,  and  this  is 
best  summed  up  in  the  words  of  Jeremy  Taylor  :  "Love 
is  the  greatest  thing  that  God  can  give  us  :  for  Himself 
is  Love,  and  it  is  the  greatest  thing  we  can  give  to 
God  ;  for  it  will  also  give  ourselves,  and  carry  with  it 
all  that  is  ours." 

Do  your  duty,  he  wrote  again  and  again,  do  your 
duty  with  an  honest  heart,  be  truthful,  be  natural,  be 
humble,  be  charitable.  His  love  of  good  and  contempt 
of  evil  is  clearly  to  be  discerned  in  his  books,  but  espe- 
cially in  "The  Newcomes";  and  in  every  story  he 
wrote  he  preached  the  gospel  of  love. 


1848]  THACKERAY'S   WOMEN  247 

I  cannot  help  telling  the  truth  as  I  view  it,  and 
describing  what  I  see.  To  describe  it  otherwise  than 
it  seems  to  me  would  be  falsehood  in  that  calling  in 
which  it  has  pleased  Heaven  to  place  me  ;  treason  to 
that  conscience  which  says  that  men  are  weak  ;  that 
truth  must  be  told  ;  that  faults  must  be  owned  ;  that 
pardon  must  be  prayed  for ;  and  that  Love  reigns 
supreme  over  all.^ 

In  that  passage  is  contained  the  teaching  of  Thack- 
eray's life  and  the  epitome  of  his  weekday  sermons. 

Many  bitter  attacks  have  been  made  upon  Thack- 
eray, not  only  on  account  of  his  philosophy  but  also  on 
account  of  his  characters.  Mrs.  Jameson  declared  that 
every  woman  resents  the  selfish  and  inane  Amelia  in 
**  Vanity  Fair,"  and  regards  Laura  in  "  Pendennis " 
as  yet  a  more  fatal  mistake  ;  while  Lady  Castlewood 
arouses  her  anger  in  no  measured  degree.  ''The 
virtuous  woman,  par  excellence^  who  '  never  sins  and 
never  forgives  ' ;  who  never  resents,  nor  relents,  nor 
repents  ;  the  mother  who  is  the  rival  of  her  daughter  ; 
the  mother  who  for  years  is  the  confidante  of  a  man's 
delirious  passion  for  her  own  child,  and  then  consoles 
him  by  marrying  him  herself !  O  Mr.  Thackeray,  this 
will  never  do  ! "  Charlotte  Bronte  thought  Thackeray 
"unjust  to  women — quite  unjust";  and  Harriet  Mar- 
tineau  thought  that  "the  first  drawback  in  his  books, 
as  in  his  manners,  is  the  impression  conveyed  by  both 
that  he  can  never  have  known  a  good  and  sensible 
woman."  Even  as  Mrs.  Henry  Potts  could  scarcely 
find  a  good  woman  in  Shakespeare's  plays,  so  Mr. 
Frederic  Harrison  finds  it  an  effort  of  memory  to 
recall  the  generous  and  fine  natures  in  Thackeray,  and 

'  Charity  and  Humour. 


248    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

he  complains  that  all  the  lovable  and  affectionate  men 
and  women  have  qualities  which  lower  them  and  tend 
to  make  them  either  tiresome  or  ridiculous.  Mr.  Har- 
rison says  that  Esmond  is  a  high-minded,  almost  heroic, 
gentleman,  but  glum,  a  regular  kill-joy,  and  some- 
thing of  a  prig  ;  that  Colonel  Newcome  is  a  noble- 
hearted  soldier,  but  too  good  for  this  world,  and  some- 
what too  innocent,  too  transparently  a  child  of  nature  ; 
that  Warrington,  with  all  his  sense  and  honesty,  is 
rough  ;  that  Pendennis  is  a  bit  of  a  puppy  ;  that  Clive 
Newcome  is  not  much  of  a  hero  ;  that  Dobbin  is  almost 
intended  to  be  a  butt.  ' '  A  more  serious  defect  is  a  dearth 
in  Thackeray  of  women  to  love  and  honour,"  he  adds. 
"Though  he  has  given  us  over  and  over  again  living 
pictures  of  women  of  power,  intellect,  with  charm,  they 
are  all  marred  by  atrocious  selfishness,  cruelty,  ambi- 
tion, like  Becky  Sharp,  Beatrix  Esmond,  and  Lady 
Kew  ;  or  else  they  have  some  weakness,  silliness,  or 
narrowness,  which  prevents  us  from  at  once  loving  and 
respecting  them.  Amelia  is  rather  a  poor  thing,  and 
decidedly  silly  ;  we  do  not  really  admire  Laura  Pen- 
dennis ;  the  Little  Sister  is  somewhat  colourless  ;  Ethel 
Newcome  runs  great  risk  of  being  a  spoilt  beauty  ;  and 
about  Lady  Castlewood,  with  all  her  love  and  devotion, 
there  hangs  a  certain  sinister  and  unnatural  taint  which 
the  world  cannot  forgive,  and  perhaps  ought  not  to 
forgive." 

There  is  this  amount  of  truth  in  all  these  adverse  com- 
ments, that  Thackeray  created  no  heroes  or  heroines. 
He  knew  that  human  nature,  or  at  least  that  section  of 
it  that  reads  novels,  cries  out  for  sentiment,  for  pretty 
ladies  and  gallant  gentlemen  making  love  in  the  most 


1848]  ON    HEROES   AND    HEROINES  249 

romantic    manner    under   the    most    romantic   circum- 
stances. 

Yott  would  have  the  heroine  of  your  novel  so  beau- 
tiful that  she  would  charm  the  captain  (or  hero,  who- 
ever he  may  be)  with  her  appearance  ;  surprise  and 
confound  the  bishop  with  her  learning  ;  outride  the 
Squire  and  get  the  brush,  and,  when  he  fell  from  his 
horse,  whip  out  a  lancet  and  bleed  him  ;  rescue  from 
fever  and  death  the  poor  cottager's  family  whom  the 
doctor  had  given  up  ;  make  twenty-one  at  the  butts 
with  the  rifle,  when  the  poor  captain  only  scored 
eighteen  ;  give  him  twenty  in  fifty  at  billiards  and 
beat  him  ;  and  draw  tears  from  the  professional  Italian 
people  by  her  exquisite  performance  (of  voice  and 
violoncello)  in  the  evening — I  say,  if  a  novelist  would 
be  popular  with  ladies — the  great  novel-readers  of 
the  world — this  is  the  sort  of  heroine  who  would  carry 
him  through  half-a-dozen  editions. 

To  this  desire  Thackeray  would  not  pander,  for  he 
held  it  his  duty  to  present  the  world  and  the  people  in 
it  as  he  saw  them  ;  and,  though  no  man  liked  popu- 
larity better,  he  was  not  content  to  purchase  it  at  the 
price  of  his  literary  conscience. 

Since  the  author  of  "Tom  Jones"  was  buried,  no 
writer  of  fiction  among  us  has  been  permitted  to 
depict  to  his  utmost  power  a  MAN  [he  said,  in  the 
preface  to  "  Pendennis  "].  We  must  drape  him,  and 
give  him  a  certain  conventional  simper.  Society 
will  not  tolerate  the  Natural  in  our  Art.  Many  ladies 
have  remonstrated  and  subscribers  left  me  because, 
in  the  course  of  the  story,  I  described  a  young  man 
resisting  and  affected  by  temptation.  My  object  was 
to  sa.y  that  he  had  the  passions  to  feel,  and  the  manli- 
ness and  generosity  to  overcome  them.  You  will  not 
hear — it  is  best  not  to  know  it — what  moves  in  the 
real  world,  what  passes  in  society,  in  the  clubs, 
colleges,    messrooms, — what  is  the  life  and  talk  of 


250    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

your  sons.  A  little  more  frankness  than  is  customary 
has  been  attempted  in  this  story,  with  no  bad  desire 
on  the  writer's  part,  it  is  hoped,  and  with  no  ill 
consequence  to  any  reader.  If  truth  is  not  always 
pleasant,  at  any  rate  truth  is  best,  from  whatever 
chair — from  those  whence  grave  writers  or  thinkers 
argue  as  from  that  at  which  the  story-teller  sits  as  he 
concludes  his  labour  and  bids  his  kind  reader  fare- 
well. 

The  mistake  into  which  many  critics  of  Thackeray 
have  fallen  is  one  of  thinking  that  the  author  intended 
to  make  his  principal  characters  heroes  and  heroines  ; 
whereas  he  presented  them  merely  as  men  and  women 
whom  the  reader  must  like  or  dislike  according  to  his 
tastes.  He  declared  that  he  disliked  everybody  in 
"Vanity  Fair  "  except  Dobbin  and  Amelia. 

Our  Friend  is  not  Amadis  or  Sir  Charles  Grandison 
[he  said  of  Philip  Firmin] ;  and  I  don't  set  him  up 
for  a  moment  as  a  person  to  be  revered  or  imitated, 
but  try  to  draw  him  faithfully  and  as  Nature  made 
him. 

On  the  other  hand,  if  no  man  or  woman  in  Thackeray's 
books  is  perfect,  all  are  human.  There  is  no  utterly 
unredeemed  scoundrel  in  any  of  his  books  :  Sir  Francis 
Clavering  is  so  weak  that  pity  rather  than  hatred  is  his 
portion  ;  and  Dr.  Firmin's  moral  standpoint  is  so  per- 
verted that,  like  Barry  Lyndon,  he  never  realises,  and 
could  not  be  brought  to  realise,  his  immorality  ;  even 
Lord  Steyne,  debauched  old  man  as  he  is,  is  not  without 
feeling,  since  he  can  sympathise  with  Major  Pendennis's 
distress  about  Arthur — perhaps  Tufton  Hunt  is  the 
worst  man  Thackeray  ever  drew.  If  Thackeray  has  not 
joined  pure  goodness  to  pure  intellect,  if  he  has  not 


1848]  HIS   CHARACTERS  251 

combined  in  one  person  the  strength  of  intellect  of  a 
Becky  and  the  goodness  of  an  Amelia,  or  the  nobility 
of  a  Henry  Esmond  or  a  Thomas  Newcome  with  the 
brilliance  of  an  Arthur  Pendennis,  it  was  certainly  not 
because  he  could  not  do  so,  or  because  he  was  in- 
capable of  appreciating  a  perfect  man  or  woman,  but 
because  such  folk  are  rarely,  if  ever,  met  with  in  the 
world. 

How  many  novelists  are  there  who  have  created 
such  a  gallery  of  characters  as  can  be  collected  from 
Thackeray's  stories?  Mrs.  Peggy  O'Dowd,  "Jos" 
Sedley,  Lord  Steyne,  Becky,  Dobbin,  and  the  members 
of  the  Crawley  family  ;  Major  Pendennis,  Captain 
Costigan,  "the  Fotheringay"  Bows,  Morgan  the 
valet,  Altamont,  Strong,  Mirobolant,  Blanche  Amory, 
Foker,  Warrington,  Fanny  Bolton,  old  Pendennis  the 
apothecary  ;  Beatrix,  Lady  Castlewood  and  her  hus- 
band ;  Colonel  Newcome,  Fred  Bayham,  Charles 
Honeyman,  Madame  de  Florae.  .  .  .  The  list  might 
be  extended  almost  indefinitely.  What  admirable 
character-drawing  !  what  insight  into  men  and  women  ! 
To  describe  people  so  truly,  so  minutely,  so  humanly 
and  so  humanely,  too,  as  he  has  done,  requires  the 
unfettered  genius  of  a  broad-minded  man.  Someone 
has  said  that  to  provide  an  author  for  "The  Egoist" 
God  had  first  to  create  a  gentleman,  and  then  give  him 
genius  ;  could  there  be  a  better  basis  upon  which  to 
build  a  criticism  of  Thackeray's  work? 

It  is  not  only  Thackeray's  philosophy  that  has  been 
attacked,  and  his  character  that  has  been  subjected  to 
adverse  criticism,  but  there  have  been  and  still  are 
writers  who  refuse  to  allot  to  his  works  a  high  place  in 


252    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

the  realms  of  literature.  Matthew  Arnold  did  not 
think  him  a  great  writer,  though  he  was  impelled  to 
admit,  *'at  any  rate,  his  style  is  that  of  one"  ;  all  that 
Ruskin  had  to  say  of  Thackeray  (in  ''  Fors  Clavigera") 
is  that  ^'Thackeray  settled  like  a  meat-fly  on  whatever 
one  had  for  dinner,  and  made  one  sick  of  it "  ;  and 
to-day,  though  depreciation  of  the  novelist  comes 
mainly  from  the  decadent  school,  yet  only  a  few  months 
since  one  of  the  most  brilliant  of  the  younger  novelists 
stated  that  he  had  nothing  to  learn  from  Thackeray  or 
Dickens. 

It  is,  of  course,  easy  to  point  out  Thackeray's  faults 
as  a  novelist.  He  was  often  careless  ;  he  would  kill 
a  character  in  one  chapter  and  bring  him  to  life  again 
a  hundred  pages  further  on,  and  commit  a  score  of  such 
blunders  ;  and  he  would  often  interrupt  the  narrative 
to  give  tongue  to  his  own  reflections.  ''And  there  is  a 
sermon,  and  a  great  deal  of  love  and  affection  from 
Papa,"  he  concluded  a  letter  to  his  daughters  ;  and  the 
same  remark  applies  to  his  books. 

Perhaps  of  all  the  novel-spinners  now  extant,  the 
present  speaker  is  most  addicted  to  preaching.  Does 
he  not  stop  perpetually  in  his  story  and  begin  to 
preach  to  you  ?  When  he  ought  to  be  engaged  with 
business,  is  he  not  for  ever  taking  the  Muse  by  the 
sleeve,  and  plaguing  her  with  some  of  his  cynical 
sermons?  I  cry peccavi  loudly  and  heartily.  I  tell 
you  I  would  like  to  be  able  to  write  a  story  which 
should  show  no  egotism  whatever — in  which  there 
should  be  no  reflections,  no  cynicism,  no  vulgarity 
(and  so  forth),  but  an  incident  in  every  other  page,  a 
villain,  a  battle,  a  mystery  in  every  chapter. 

When  Allingham  said  to  Thackeray  that  a  certain 


1848]  HIS    METHOD   OF  WRITING  253 

story  of  Dickens  might  be  improved  by  a  man  of 
good  taste  with  a  pencil  in  his  hand,  by  merely  scoring 
out  this  and  that,  "Young  man,"  interrupted  Thack- 
eray, affecting  an  Irish  brogue,  "you're  threading  on 
the  tail  o'  me  coat.  What  you've  just  said  applies 
very  much  to  your  humble  servant's  things."  Where- 
upon Allingham  and  Father  Prout  protested  there 
was  not  a  line  too  much  in  Thackeray's  novels,^  and, 
as  regards  the  best  works  of  the  author,  the  protest  is 
true.  It  would  be  a  dangerous  precedent  for  any 
writer  to  follow,  but  in  Thackeray's  case,  had  the  story 
been  strictly  adhered  to,  the  books  would  have  been 
less  fascinating  ;  it  is  the  digressions,  the  personal 
touches,  the  little  weekday  sermons,  that  invest  the 
novels  with  much  of  their  charm^ — "  Like  the  songs  of 
the  chorus,"  says  Mr.  Andrew  Lang,  "they  bid  us 
pause  a  moment  over  the  wider  laws  and  actions  of 
human  fate  and  human  life." 

These  exquisite  interpolations  were  certainly  in  part 
due  to  Thackeray's  want  of  method  in  the  construction 
of  his  novels.     He  wrote,  as  it  were,  by  instinct. 

My  Pegasus  won't  fly  so  as  to  let  me  survey  the 
field  below  me.  He  has  no  wings  ;  he  is  blind  of 
one  eye  certainly ;  he  is  restive,  stubborn,  slow ; 
crops  a  hedge  when  he  ought  to  be  galloping,  or 
gallops  when  he  ought  to  be  quiet.  He  will  never 
show  off  when  I  want  him.  Sometimes  he  goes  at 
a  pace  which  surprises  me.  Sometimes,  when  I 
most  wish  him  to  make  the  running,  the  brute  turns 
restive.     I  am  obliged  to  let  him  take  his  time. 

His  plan  was  to  create  mentally  two  or  three  of  the 
principal  characters,  and  then  to  write  on  from  number 

1  William  Allingham  :  Diary,  p.  78. 


254    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

to  number,  with  only  a  general  notion  of  the  course 
he  would  be  taking  a  few  chapters  later.  "  I  don't 
control  my  characters,"  he  told  Cordy  Jeaffreson  ;  ''I 
am  in  their  hands,  and  they  take  me  where  they 
please." 

I  have  been  surprised  at  the  observations  made  by 
some  of  my  characters  [he  wrote  in  a  "  Roundabout 
Paper."]  It  seems  as  if  an  occult  power  was  moving 
the  pen.  The  personage  does  or  says  something, 
and  I  ask,  "  How  the  dickens  did  he  come  to  think 
of  that?" 

Thus,  when  someone  remonstrated  with  him  for 
having  made  Esmond  marry  "his  mother-in-law,"  he 
replied,  with  a  laugh,  ''/didn't  make  him  do  it;  they 
did  it  themselves."  When  Whitwell  Elwin,  suspect- 
ing Thackeray  wrote  by  a  sort  of  instinct,  without 
marking  the  full  import  of  his  narrative,  said  to  him, 
"There  is  probably  more  in  your  novels  than  you  are 
aware  of,"  "Yes,"  replied  the  novelist,  "I  have  no 
idea  where  it  all  comes  from.  I  have  never  seen  the 
persons  I  describe,  nor  heard  the  conversations  I  put 
down.  I  am  often  astonished  to  read  it  myself  when 
I  have  got  it  down  on  paper. "^  His  characters,  none 
the  less,  were  very  real  to  him.  He  was  so  affected  by 
the  death  of  Helen  Pendennis  that  he  was  found  in 
tears.  "I  wonder  what  will  happen  to  Pendennis 
and  Fanny  Bolton,"  he  wrote  to  Mrs.  Brookfield ; 
"writing  and  sending  it  to  you,  it  seems  as  if  it  were 
true."  He  told  the  same  correspondent  how  on  a  con- 
tinental trip  he  had  been  to  the  Hotel  de  la  Terrasse 

^  Whitwell  Elwin:  Some  Eighteenth  Centziry  Men  of  Letters,  Vol.  I, 
P-  155- 


1848]  HIS   STYLE  255 

where  Becky  used  to  stay  and  had  passed  by  Captain 
Osborne's  lodgings.  "I  believe  perfectly  in  all  the 
people"  he  added,  "and  feel  quite  an  interest  in  the 
inn  in  which  they  lived." 

Thackeray's  style  was  founded  upon  the  masters  of 
the  eighteenth  century,  and  in  this  respect  his  books 
bear  comparison  with  Addison  and  Fielding  and 
Steele.  Yet  his  style,  which  was  born  with  him  and 
is  visible  in  his  early  writings,  was  almost  wholly 
original.  "It  is  more  like  the  result  of  thinking  aloud 
than  the  style  of  any  other  writer,"  Professor  Saints- 
bury  has  put  it  happily.  "  But  it  is  also  more  than 
this.  The  writer  thinks  for  himself  and  for  '  the  other 
fellow' — for  an  imaginary  interlocutor  who  makes 
objections,  spies  the  ludicrous  side  of  what  has  been 
said,  and  so  on."^ 

Very  clear  is  every  passage  Thackeray  wrote,  and 
none  can  fail  to  grasp  the  meaning  of  his  every  line. 
That,  indeed,  was  the  object  he  always  kept  before  him. 
"The  great  thing  is  to  make  no  sentence  without 
a  meaning  to  it,"  he  said  ;  and  he  would  rewrite  pages 
of  manuscript,  substituting  simpler  words  for  longer 
ones.  Few  writers  have  revised  their  work  more  care- 
fully ;  and  even  after  the  novels  were  published,  when 
a  new  edition  was  called  for,  the  author  carefully  ex- 
amined every  page,  and  made  many  alterations,  both 
trivial  and  important. 

Thackeray  hated  enthusiastic  writing,  but  he  could 
rise  to  almost  any  scene.     There  are  few  passages  in 

1  Introduction  to  the  Oxford  Edition  of  Thackeray's  Works,  Vol.  I, 
p.  xxxi. 


256  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 
English  fiction  more  tender  than  the  last  parting  of 
George  Osborne  and  Amelia. 

George  came  in  and  looked  at  her  again,  entering 
still  more  softly.  By  the  pale  night-lamp  he  could 
see  her  sweet,  pale  face — the  purple  eye-lids  were 
fringed  and  closed,  and  one  round  arm,  smooth  and 
white,  lay  outside  the  coverlet.  Good  God  !  how 
pure  she  was ;  how  gentle,  how  tender,  and  how 
friendly  !  And  he,  how  selfish,  brutal,  and  black 
with  crime  !  Heart-stained  and  shame-stricken,  he 
stood  at  the  bed's  foot,  and  looked  at  the  sleeping 
girl.  How  dared  he — who  was  he,  to  pray  for  one 
so  spotless  !  God  bless  her  !  God  bless  her  !  He 
came  to  the  bedside  and  looked  at  the  hand,  the  little 
soft  hand,  lying  asleep  ;  and  he  bent  over  the  pillow 
noiselessly  towards  the  gentle,  pale  face.  Two  fair 
arms  closed  tenderly  round  his  neck  as  he  stooped 
down.  "  I  am  awake,  George,"  the  poor  child  said, 
with  a  sob  fit  to  break  the  little  heart  that  nestled  so 
closely  by  his  own.^ 

A  few  days  later  the  foolish,  weak  young  man  died 
fighting  for  his  country. 

No  more  firing  was  heard  at  Brussels — the  pursuit 
rolled  miles  away.  The  darkness  came  down  on  the 
field  and  city  :  and  Amelia  was  praying  for  George, 
who  was  lying  on  his  face,  dead,  with  a  bullet  through 
his  heart. -^ 

Thackeray  never  wrote  anything  finer  than  the 
Waterloo  chapters  of  "Vanity  Fair,"  though  very 
beautifully  described  are  the  deaths  of  Helen  Pendennis 
and  Colonel  Newcome  ;  and  it  is  necessary  to  go  to 
"  Esmond  "  to  find  passages  so  exquisite.  It  is  hard 
to  find  anything  to  surpass  that  speech  of  Lady  Castle- 
wood  to  the  Duke  of  Hamilton,  which  begins, 

1  Vanity  Fair,  chap.  xxix.  '^  Ibid.,  chap,  xxxii. 


I 


i848]  "ESMOND"  257 

My  daughter  may  receive  presents  from  the  Head 
of  our  House  :  my  daughter  may  thankfully  take 
kindness  from  her  father's,  her  mother's,  her  brother's 
dearest  friend  ;  and  be  grateful  for  one  more  benefit 
besides  the  thousands  we  owe  him.  ^ 

Yet,  as  is  the  case  with  all  Thackeray's  books,  one  fine 
scene  conjures  up  memories  of  many  others,  and  in 
**  Esmond"  there  is  the  interview  in  which  the  hero  and 
young  Castlewood  repudiate  the  Pretender,  and,  earlier 
in  the  story,  the  welcome  extended  to  her  dear  Harry 
by  Lady  Castlewood  on  his  home-coming  a  year  after 
the  Viscount's  death. 

*'  I  knew  you  would  come  back  .  .  .  and  to-day, 
Henry,  in  the  anthem,  when  they  sang  it,  '  When 
the  Lord  turned  the  captivity  of  Zion,  we  were  like 
them  that  dream,'  I  thought,  yes,  like  them  that 
dream — them  that  dream.  And  then  it  went,  '  They 
that  sow  in  tears  shall  reap  in  joy  ;  and  he  that  goeth 
forth  and  weepeth,  shall  doubtless  come  home  again 
with  rejoicing,  bringing  his  sheaves  with  him  '  ;  I 
looked  up  from  the  book  and  saw  you.  I  was  not 
surprised  when  I  saw  you.  I  knew  you  would  come, 
my  dear,  and  saw  the  gold  sunshine  round  your 
head.  .  .  .  Do  you  know  what  day  it  is  ?  .  .  .  It 
is  the  29th  of  December — it  is  your  birthday  !  But 
last  year  we  did  not  drink  it, — no,  no.  My  lord  was 
cold,  and  my  Harry  was  likely  to  die  :  and  my  brain 
was  in  a  fever ;  and  we  had  no  wine.  But  now — 
now  you  are  come  again,  bringing  your  sheaves  with 
you,  my  dear."  She  burst  into  a  wild  flood  of 
weeping  as  she  spoke  ;  she  laughed  and  sobbed  on 
the  young  man's  heart,  crying  out  wildly,  **  bringing 
your  sheaves  with  you — your  sheaves  with  you  !  "  "^ 

Only  one  further  quotation  may  be  allowed,  and  this 
shall  be  the  description  of  Esmond's  visit  to  his  mother's 

^  Esmond,  Book  III,  chap.  iv.     ^  Ibid.,  Book  II,  chap,  vi, 
I.— S 


258    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

grave  in  the  convent  cemetery  at  Brussels,   the  finest 
piece  of  word-painting  that  Thackeray  ever  penned. 

Esmond  came  to  this  spot  in  one  sunny  evening  of 
spring,  and  saw,  amidst  a  thousand  black  crosses, 
casting  their  shadows  across  the  grassy  mounds,  that 
particular  one  which  marked  his  mother's  resting- 
place.  Many  more  of  those  poor  creatures  that 
lay  there  had  adopted  that  same  name,  with  which 
sorrow  had  rebaptised  her,  and  which  fondly  seemed 
to  hint  their  individual  story  of  love  and  grief.  He 
fancied  her,  in  tears  and  darkness,  kneeling  at  the 
foot  of  her  cross,  under  which  her  cares  were  buried. 
Surely  he  knelt  down,  and  said  his  own  prayer  there, 
not  in  sorrow  so  much  as  in  awe  (for  even  his  memory 
had  no  recollection  of  her),  and  in  pity  for  the  pangs 
which  the  gentle  soul  in  life  had  been  made  to  suffer. 
To  this  cross  she  brought  them  ;  for  this  heavenly 
bridegroom  she  exchanged  the  husband  who  had 
wooed  her,  the  traitor  who  had  left  her.  A  thousand 
such  hillocks  lay  round  about,  the  gentle  daisies 
springing  out  of  the  grass  over  them,  and  each 
bearing  its  cross  and  requiescat.  A  nun,  veiled  in 
black,  was  kneeling  hard  by,  at  a  sleeping  sister's 
bedside  (so  fresh  made,  that  the  spring  had  scarce 
had  time  to  spin  a  coverlid  for  it) ;  beyond  the 
cemetery  walls  you  had  glimpses  of  life  and  the  * 
world,  and  the  spires  and  gables  of  the  city.  A  w 
bird  came  down  from  a  roof  opposite,  and  lit  first  on 
a  cross,  and  then  on  the  grass  below  it,  whence  it 
flew  away  presently  with  a  leaf  in  its  mouth  :  then 
came  a  sound  as  of  chanting,  from  the  chapel  of  the 
sisters  hard  by  :  others  had  long  since  filled  the  place 
which  poor  Mary  Magdaleine  once  had  there,  were 
kneeling  at  the  same  stall,  and  hearing  the  same 
hymns  and  prayers  in  which  her  stricken  heart  had 
found  consolation.  Might  she  sleep  in  peace — might 
she  sleep  in  peace  ;  and  we,  too,  when  our  struggles 
and  pains  are  over  !  But  the  earth  is  the  Lord's,  as 
the  Heaven  is  ;  we  are  alike  his  creatures,  here  and 
yonder.     I  took  a  little  flower   off  the   hillock,  and 


i848]  A  CLASSICAL  AUTHOR  259 

kissed  it,  and  went  my  way,  like  the  bird  that  had 
just  lighted  on  the  cross  by  me,  back  into  the  world 
again.  Silent  receptacle  of  death  !  tranquil  depth  of 
calm,  out  of  reach  of  tempest  and  trouble  !  I  felt  as 
one  who  had  been  walking  below  the  sea,  and  treading 
amidst  the  bones  of  shipwrecks.^ 

Thackeray  once  declared  frankly  that  he  wished  to 
rank  as  a  classical  author.  His  desire  has  been  fully 
realised.  To-day  his  name  stands  for  culture  and  high 
intelligence,  for  delicate  humrour  and  exquisite  pathos  ; 
for  great  understanding  of  the  inner  workings  of  the 
minds  of  men  and  women  ;  for  literary  style  and  for 
pure  nervous  undefiled  English.  As  the  author  of 
"Barry  Lyndon",  "Vanity  Fair",  "  Pendennis," 
"Esmond,"  and  the  "Roundabout  Papers,"  he  has 
taken  his  place  among  the  greatest  writers  of  the  nine- 
teenth century,  and,  indeed,  in  the  history  of  English 
fiction  he  ranks  second  only  to  Henry  Fielding. 

^  Esmond,  Book  II,  chap.  xiii. 


CHAPTER   XIV 

IN   SOCIETY 

Thackeray  lionised  by  society — his  amusement  at  being  so  treated — 
applause  an  incentive  to  him — society  provides  material  for  his 
writings — speech-making — his  "smash"  at  a  Literary  Fund  Dinner — 
and  at  Manchester — his  speech  at  the  banquet  given  on  his  departure 
for  America,  1855 — his  belief  that  practice  in  speaking  would  enable 
him  to  express  his  opinions  in  the  House  of  Commons — charged  with 
tuft-hunting — the  disadvantages  of  success — he  loses  old  friends — 
much  improved  by  success — tributes  by  Albert  Smith,  John  HoUings- 
head,  Frederick  Locker-Lampson,  Henry  Vizetelly,  Dr,  John  Brown 
and  the  Rev.  Whitwell  Elwin — attacks  on  him — his  moods — Mrs.  J.  T. 
Fields'  opinion  of  him — his  chanty — and  his  kindness — interests  him- 
self in  Louis  Marvy  and  others — his  shyness — and  his  occasional 
savagery — his  sense  of  fun — his  conversation — some  bans  mots  and 
impromptus — sadness  the  keynote  to  his  character. 

EVEN   before   the   last  numbers  of    "Vanity- 
Fair  "  were  published,   Thackeray  had   be- 
come a  personage,  and  his  tall  figure  and 
massive  head  became  a  familiar  sight  in  the  ; 
dining-rooms  and  drawing-rooms  of  society. 

There  is  no  more  dangerous  or  stupefying  position 
for  a  man  in  life  than  to  be  a  cock  of  a  small  society 
[he  wrote  about  this  time].  It  prevents  his  ideas 
from  growing  ;  it  renders  him  intolerably  conceited. 
A  twopenny-halfpenny  Cssar,  a  Brummagem  dandy, 
a  coterie  philosopher  or  wit,  is  pretty  sure  to  be  an 
ass  ;  and,  in  fine,  I  lay  it  down  as  a  maxim  that  it  is 
good  for  a  man  to  live  where  he  can  meet  his  betters, 
intellectual  and  social.^ 

^  Air.  Broivn's  Letters — On  Friendship. 
260 


A   SOCIAL   LION  261 

Thackeray  liked  society  and  felt  at  home  in  it  ;  but 
for  a  long  time  he  was  amused,  though  certainly  not 
displeased,  at  the  idea  of  being  a  great  man.  "This 
is  true  fame,"  he  exclaimed  gleefully,  on  receiving  an 
anonymous  present  of  half  a  dozen  bottles  of  a  fine  old 
brandy  ;  and  he  was  greatly  flattered  and  much  moved 
when  Turgueneff  called  on  him  without  any  introduc- 
tion, simply  in  the  character  of  a  foreign  admirer  of 
his  works,  and  without  saying  a  word  about  his  own 
literary  position.  At  most  other  tributes,  however,  he 
was  inclined  to  smile,  being  essentially  a  humble- 
minded  man,  and  rather  astonished  at  the  fuss  the 
world  was  beginning  to  make  about  him.^ 

"I  doubt  whether  Thackeray  will  be  much  the 
happier  for  his  success,"  his  old  friend,  Monckton 
Milnes,  wrote  in  May  1849,  'though  I  think  people 
generally  are  for  satisfied  ambition."  Applause,  how- 
ever, was  to  Thackeray  a  glorious  incentive.  It  was 
what  had  been  wanting  during  the  many  years  of  his 
struggles  ;  and,  now  it  had  come,  instead  of  inclining 
him  to  retire  on  his  laurels,  it  acted  as  a  spur  to  further 
effort.  Carlyle  surmised  that  since  Thackeray  had  taken 
to  cultivate  dinner-eating  in  fashionable  houses,  his 
work  would  suffer  ;  and  perhaps  it  would  have  been 
better  for  Thackeray  if  (as  with  a  trifle  of  exaggera- 
tion he  told  Lady  Blessington)  he  had  not  "reeled 
from  dinner  party  to  dinner  party,  wallowed  in  turtle, 
and  swum  in  claret  and  champagne."  On  the  other 
hand,  society  was  useful  and  necessary  to  him.  "A 
social  painter  must  be  of  the  world  which  he  depicts, 
and  native  to  the  manners  he  portrays,"  he  wrote,  when 

^  H.  Sutherland  Edwards  :  Recollections,  p.  37. 


262    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

comparing  the  accuracy  of  Leech's  drawings  with  the 
many  mistakes  of  Gillray.  ''If  I  don't  go  out  and 
mingle  in  society,  I  can't  write,"  he  confided  to  Mrs. 
Bedingfield.  He  makes  a  speech  at  a  Literary  Fund 
Dinner  and  breaks  down  :  "Of  what  I  said  I  have  not 
the  slightest  idea,"  he  told  Mrs.  Brookfield  ;  "  but  the 
discomfiture  will  make  a  good  chapter  for  '  Pendennis. '  " 
He  goes  to  a  Sybaritic  repast  at  Spencer  Cowper's,  and 
sees  a  chapter  or  two  in  some  of  the  guests.  It  is  all  a 
matter  of  temperament.  Carlyle  could  probably  not 
have  written  at  all  if  he  had  dined  out  regularly  :  to 
Thackeray  society  was  as  the  breath  of  his  nostrils. 
"He  was  a  man  of  sensibility,"  Locker-Lampson  has 
recorded;  "he  delighted  in  luxuriously  furnished  and 
well-lighted  rooms,  good  music,  excellent  wines  and 
cookery,  exhilarating  talk,  gay  and  airy  gossip,  pretty 
women  and  their  toilettes,  and  refined  and  noble 
manners,  le  bon  gout,  le  ris,  raimahle  liberie!  The 
amenities  of  life  and  the  traditions  stimulated  his 
imagination."^ 

There  is  no  doubt  Thackeray  enjoyed  being  lion- 
ised ;  but  there  was  one  serious  drawback  :  being  a 
prominent  personage  in  literature  and  society,  he  had 
to  take  the  share  in  speech-making  at  banquets  that 
falls  to  the  lot  of  those  who  have  raised  themselves 
above  their  fellows.  Though  a  finished  lecturer, 
Thackeray  was  at  his  worst  when  he  attempted  to 
deliver  a  speech  to  a  large  audience.  At  the  Shake- 
speare dinners  at  the  Garrick  Club  and  on  similar 
occasions  when  he  felt  more  or  less  at  home  it  was  not 
so  bad  :   but  elsewhere  he  was  terribly  self-conscious, 

^  My  CoTifidenceSj  p,  304. 


AS  A  PUBLIC  SPEAKER  263 

and  suffered  agonies  of  nervousness  before  the  hour 
arrived.  The  failure  itself  was  not  so  bad  as  the 
anticipation  of  it,  and  he  could  quite  light-heartedly 
laugh  at  himself  when  the  ordeal  was  over. 

Thackeray,  when  the  ''smash"  came,  as  it  usually 
did  after  the  first  few  sentences  of  his  carefully  prepared 
speech,  would  sit  down  so  calmly,  with  such  a  look  of 
amused  bewilderment,  that  the  audience  always  gave 
him  a  kindly  smile.  Once  he  made  Fields  travel  with 
him  to  Manchester  to  hear  the  speech  he  was  going  to 
make  at  the  founding  of  the  Free  Library  Institution  in 
that  city.  "All  the  way  down,"  Fields  has  recorded, 
"  he  was  discoursing  of  certain  effects  he  intended  to  pro- 
duce on  the  Manchester  doges  by  his  eloquent  appeals 
to  their  pockets.  This  passage  was  to  have  great  influ- 
ence with  the  rich  merchants,  this  one  with  the  clergy, 
and  so  on.  He  said  that  although  Dickens,  and  Bul- 
wer,  and  Sir  James  Stephen — all  eloquent  speakers — 
were  to  precede  him,  he  intended  to  beat  each  of  them 
on  this  special  occasion.  He  insisted  that  I  should  be 
seated  directly  in  front  of  him  so  that  I  should  have  the 
full  force  of  his  magic  eloquence.  .  .  .  Sir  John  Potter, 
who  presided,  then  rose,  and  after  some  complimentary 
allusions  to  the  author  of  '  Vanity  Fair,'  introduced  him 
to  the  crowd,  who  received  him  with  ringing  plaudits. 
As  he  rose,  he  gave  me  a  half-wink  from  under  his 
spectacles,  as  if  to  say,  '  Now  for  it ;  the  others  have 
done  very  well,  but  I  will  show  'em  a  grace  beyond  the 
reach  of  their  art.'  He  began  in  a  clear  and  charming 
manner,  and  was  absolutely  perfect  for  three  minutes. 
In  the  midst  of  a  most  earnest  and  elaborate  sentence 
he  suddenly  stopped,  gave  a  look  of  comic  despair  at 


264    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

the  ceiling,  crammed  both  hands  into  his  trousers 
pockets,  and  deliberately  sat  down.  .  .  .  He  continued 
to  sit  on  the  platform  in  a  perfectly  composed  manner  ; 
and  when  the  meeting  was  over,  he  said  to  me,  without 
a  sign  of  discomfiture,  '  My  boy,  you  have  accidentally 
missed  hearing  one  of  the  finest  speeches  ever  com- 
posed for  delivery  by  a  great  British  orator.'"^  To 
this  occasion  he  referred  in  a  letter  to  his  youngest 
daughter : 

Last  week  I  was  away  at  Manchester  when  I  broke 
down  in  a  speech  before  three  thousand  ladies  and 
gentlemen.  I  felt  very  foolish,  but  I  tried  again  at 
night,  and  did  better ;  and  as  there  is  nothing  more 
wicked  in  breaking  down  in  a  speech  than  in  slipping 
on  a  bit  of  orange-peel  and  breaking  one's  nose,  why, 
I  got  up  again,  and  made  another  speech  at  night 
without  breaking  down.  It  is  all  custom,  and  most 
people  can  no  more  do  it  than  they  can  play  the  piano 
without  learning. 

When  George  Hodder  was  acting  as  Thackeray's 
secretary,  one  morning  he  found  the  great  man  still  in 
bed  and  complaining  of  a  restless  night.  "  I'm  sorry 
you  do  not  seem  very  well  this  morning,"  Hodder  said. 
"  Wei/,''  the  unhappy  novelist  murmured  ;  "  no,  I  am 
not  well.  I  have  got  to  make  that  confounded  speech 
to-night"  (at  the  annual  dinner  of  the  General  Theatrical 
Fund)."  ''  Don't  let  that  trouble  you  ;  you  will  be  all 
right  when  the  time  comes,"  the  secretary  said  sooth- 
ingly. "Nonsense,"  Thackeray  replied;  "it  won't 
come  all  right ;  I  can't  make  a  speech,  confound  it ! 
That  fellow  Jackson  let  me  in  for  this.  Why  don't  they 
get  Dickens  to  take  the  chair  ?    He  can  make  a  speech 

^   Yesterdays  with  AntJiors. 


SOME   SPEECHES  265 

and  a  good  one.  .  .  .  Pm  of  no  use.  .  .  .  They  little 
think  how  nervous  I  am  ;  and  Dickens  doesn't  know 
the  meaning  of  the  word."^ 

Thackeray  spoke  at  the  dinners  of  the  Literary  Fund, 
the  Theatrical  Fund,  and  other  charitable  institutions  ; 
and  he  replied  for  Literature  at  a  Royal  Academy 
dinner  and  elsewhere.  He  was  one  of  the  stewards  of 
the  banquet  given  to  Macready  at  the  London  Tavern 
on  March  i,  1851,  on  the  occasion  of  the  actor's  retire- 
ment, and  he  proposed  the  health  of  Mrs.  Macready 
and  her  family. 

Thackeray  took  a  great  deal  of  trouble  over  his 
speech  to  be  delivered  at  the  farewell  banquet  given  to 
him  on  the  eve  of  his  departure  for  the  second  visit  to 
America.  *'  It  is  very  kind  of  my  friends  to  give  me  a 
dinner,"  he  said,  ''but  I  wish  it  was  over,  for  such 
things  set  me  trembling.  Besides,"  he  exclaimed  to 
Mr.  Hodder,  ''  I  have  to  make  a  speech,  and  what  am  I 
to  say?  Here,  take  a  pen  in  your  hand  and  sit  down, 
and  I'll  see  if  I  can  hammer  out  something.  It's  ham- 
mering now  ;  I'm  afraid  it  will  be  stammering  by-and- 
by."  He  dictated  the  speech,  and  tried  to  learn  it; 
but  the  speech  as  delivered,  those  who  were  present 
have  asserted,  fell  far  short  of  the  speech  as  written, 
and  Thackeray  was  firmly  convinced  that  he  had  bun- 
gled the  business. 

My  dear  fellow  [he  wrote  to  Macready  from  New 
York,  November  20,  1855],  it  is  about  that  horrible 
nightmare  of  a  dinner  I  want  to  speak  to  you.  You 
must  know  I  intended  to  say  something  funny  about 
Macbeth  and  Banquo  ;  and  then  to  finish  off  with  the 
prettiest  compliment   and  give  some  notion  of  the 

^  George  Hodder  :  Merjwries  of  My  Time. 


266    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

kindness  I  was  feeling — I  blundered  in  the  joke,  left 
out  the  kindness  and  the  compliment — made  an  awful 
fiasco.  If  I  lose  my  head  when  I  try  speechmaking, 
all  is  up  with  me.  I  say  what  I  don't  mean,  what  I 
don't  know  afterwards,  the  Lord  forgive  me — and  you 
must,  if  I  said  aught  (I  don't  know  for  certain  that  I 
did  or  didn't)  which  was  unpleasing.  I  am  savage 
sometimes  when  my  heart  is  at  its  tenderest,  and  I 
want  to  tell  you  now — and  no  other  words  are  authen- 
tic, and  if  I  said  'em  I  deny  'em — that  I  felt  pleased 
and  touch'd  by  your  kindness  and  apologise  hereby 
for  my  own  blunders  and  cordially  shake  you  by  the 
hand.^ 

No  amount  of  practice  will  make  a  great  speaker  out 
of  a  man  who  lacks  eloquence  and  the  other  essential 
qualities,  but  it  will  in  course  of  time  enable  an  in- 
telligent man  to  say  clearly  what  is  in  his  mind.  So 
Thackeray  argued,  when  he  offered  himself  to  the 
Oxford  electors  as  their  representative  in  Parliament. 

As  to  my  own  opinions  on  public  questions,  you 
may  have  heard  them  pretty  frequently  expressed  on 
many  occasions.  I  only  hope,  if  you  elect  me  to 
Parliament,  I  shall  be  able  to  obviate  the  little 
difficulty  which  has  been  placarded  against  me — that 
I  could  not  speak.  I  own  I  cannot  speak  very  well, 
but  I  shall  learn.  I  cannot  spin  out  glib  sentences 
by  the  yard  as  some  people  can  ;  but  if  I  have  got 
anything  in  my  mind,  if  I  feel  strongly  on  any 
question,  I  have,  I  believe,  got  brains  enough  to 
express  it. 

Candid  friends  hinted  that  Thackeray  was  becoming 
a  tuft-hunter.  "Mr.  Thackeray  has  said  more,  and 
more  effectively,  about  snobs  and  snobbism  than  any 
other  man,"  Harriet  Martineau  has  written  ;  "and  yet 

^  W.  M.  Thackeray  :  Notes  for  Speech  at  Dinner,  October  ii,  iS^g, 
etc. ,  printed  for  Major  W.  H.  Lambert,  Philadelphia,  1896. 


A   DINER  OUT  267 

his  frittered  life,  and  his  obedience  to  the  call  of  the 
great,  are  the  observed  of  all  observers.  As  it  is,  so  it 
must  be  ;  but  '  O  the  pity  of  it,  the  pity  of  it ! '  Great 
and  unusual  allowance  is  to  be  made  in  his  case,  I  am 
aware  ;  but  this  does  not  lessen  the  concern  occasioned 
by  the  spectacle  of  one  after  another  of  the  aristocracy  of 
nature  making  the  Koto  to  the  aristocracy  of  accident." 
"Thackeray  had  grown  a  little  blase,^^  Sir  Frederick 
Pollock  wrote  in  1849  ;  and  some  years  later  :  "  Thack- 
eray .  .  .  after  he  became  famous,  liked  no  subject  so 
well  as  himself  and  his  books  "  ;  and  this,  too,  after 
Thackeray  had  humorously  complained  to  Mr.  Brook- 
field  that  at  a  dinner  at  the  "Star  and  Garter"  with 
the  Strutts  and  Romillys  they  talked  about  "Vanity 
Fair"  and  "Pendennis"  almost  incessantly,  though 
he  declared  he  tried  to  turn  the  conversation  at  least 
ten  times,  but  they  would  not  let  him.  Very  probably 
these  people  who  complained  of  Thackeray's  con- 
versation turning  on  his  books  were  the  very  people 
who  would  not  permit  the  subject  to  be  changed. ^ 
Thackeray  was  aware  of  the  charges  brought  against 
him,  and  replied  to  them  when,  in  the  person  of 
"Brown  the  Elder,"  he  was  discoursing  on  Friendship: 

To  know  young  noblemen  and  brilliant  and 
notorious  town-bucks  and  leaders  of  fashion,  has 
this  great  disadvantage  ;  that  if  you  talk  about  them 
or  are  seen  with  them  much,  you  offend  all  your 
friends   of   middle    life.      It  makes  men  envious  to 

^  It  is  interesting  in  this  respect  to  compare  an  extract  from  Macaulay's 
Diary.  "  I  dined  at  Lady  Charlotte  Lindsay's  with  Hallam  and  Kinglake. 
I  am  afraid  that  I  talked  too  much  about  my  book.  Yet  really  the  fault 
was  not  mine.  People  -would  introduce  the  subject.  I  will  be  more 
guarded  ;  yet  how  difficult  it  is  to  hit  the  right  point  !  To  turn  the  con- 
versation might  look  ungracious  and  affected." 


268    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

see  their  acquaintances  better  off  than  they  them- 
selves are. 

Of  course  he  had  to  pay  the  inevitable  price  for  his 
social  popularity — the  loss  of  some  of  his  friends  of 
early  life.  "I  like  what  are  called  Bohemians  and 
fellows  of  that  sort,"  he  told  John  Eston  Cooke.  "  I 
have  seen  all  sorts  of  society — dukes,  duchesses,  lords 
and  ladies,  authors,  actors,  and  painters — and  taken 
altogether  I  think  I  like  painters  the  best,  and  Bohe- 
mians generally.  They  are  more  natural  and  un- 
conventional ;  they  wear  their  hair  on  their  shoulders 
if  they  want,  and  dress  picturesquely  and  carelessly."^ 
That  is  not  like  the  language  of  a  tuft-hunter,  nor  is 
the  following  sentiment  likely  to  be  expressed  by  an 
idolater  of  rank  : 

When  I  see  those  magnificent  dandies  yawning 
out  of  White's  or  caracoUing  in  the  Park,  I  like  to 
think  that  Brummell  was  the  greatest  of  them  all,  and 
that  Brummell's  father  was  a  footman. ^ 

Nevertheless  he  thoroughly  admired  the  je  ne  sais 
qtioz  that  marks  the  gentleman. 

(The  Kickleburys)  are  travelling  with  Mr.  Bloun- 
dell,  who  was  a  gentleman  once  and  still  retains 
about  him  some  faint  odour  of  that  time  of  bloom. ^ 

It  is  true  poor  Plantagenet  (Gaunt)  is  only  an 
idiot  ...  a  zany  .  .  .  and  yet  you  see  somehow  that 
he  is  a  gentleman.* 

^  Apple  fan's  Magazine,  September  1S79. 

2  Brummell's  father,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  was  private  secretary  to 
Lord  Liverpool,  and  in  that  capacity  amassed  a  fortune,  set  up  as  a 
country  gentleman,  and  entertained  Fox,  Sheridan,  and  other  notabilities 
at  Donning-ton  Hall.  The  Beau's  grandfather,  however,  was  a  small 
tradesman  who  let  lodgings. 

3  The  Kickleburys  on  the  Rhine. 

*  Dr.  Birch  and  His  Young  Friends. 


ON   GOOD   BREEDING  269 

These  are  among  the  lines  that  Thackeray  has 
written,  expressive  of  the  high  value  he  placed  on 
good  breeding.  "  No  doubt  a  man  may  be  an  earl  of 
eleven  descents,  and  yet  be  a  pitifully  mean  creature," 
he  once  said  to  Cordy  Jeaffreson ;  ''all  the  same  for  that, 
I  am  of  opinion  that  it  takes  three  generations  to  make 
a  gentleman."^  But  a  man  may  like  to  be  in  the 
company  of  gentlemen  without  being  a  snob  ! 

It  cannot  be  seriously  believed  that  Thackeray 
neglected  the  friends  of  earlier  days.  We  all  know 
how  it  is.  If  a  social  equal  or  inferior  passes  us  in 
the  street  without  a  word  or  recognition,  it  is  because  he 
does  not  see  us  ;  but  if  a  person  of  much  higher  rank 
does  the  same,  then  it  is  because  he  does  not  wish 
to  see  us.  The  same  absurd  sensitiveness,  which 
can  only  arise  from  a  feeling  of  uncertainty  about 
one's  position,  may  be  seen  when  a  family  has 
lost  its  money.  They  lose  their  friends,  and  then  to 
the  end  of  the  chapter  grumble  at  the  perfidy  of 
well-to-do  people.  But  is  it  entirely  the  fault  of  the 
friends?  More  often  it  is  because  the  unfortunate 
people  are  on  the  look  out  for  slights  and  insults  in  a 
way  that  was  quite  unnatural  to  them  in  their  days  of 
prosperity.  Thus  it  was,  no  doubt,  with  many  of 
those  who  found  Thackeray  bored  or  cold. 

When  a  man  gets  this  character  (of  being  haughty 
and  supercilious  to  old  acquaintances)  he  never  loses 
it  [he  defended  himself  in  a  letter  to  his  relative, 
Mrs.  Bayne].  This  opinion  once  put  forth  against 
a  man,  all  his  friends  believe  it,  accommodate  thern- 
selves  to  the  new  theory,  see  coolness  where  none  is 
meant.     They  won't  allow  for  the  time  an  immensely 

1  J.  C.  Jeaffreson:  A  Book  of  Recollections,  Vol.  I.,  p.  250. 


270    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

enlarged  acquaintance  occupies,  and  fancy  I  am 
dangling  after  lords  and  fine  people  because  I  am 
not  so  much  in  their  drawing-rooms  as  in  former 
days.  They  don't  know  in  what  a  whirl  a  man 
plunges  who  is  engaged  in  my  business.  Since  I 
began  this  work  (lecturing),  besides  travelling,  read- 
ing, seeing  people,  dining — when  I  am  forced  out 
and  long  to  be  quiet — I  write  at  the  rate  of  five 
thousand  letters  a  year.  I  have  a  heap  before  me 
now — six  of  them  are  about  lectures — one  from  an 
old  gentleman  whom  I  met  on  the  railroad  and  who 
sends  me  his  fugitive  poems.  I  must  read  them, 
answer,  and  compliment  the  old  gentleman.  Another 
from  a  poor  widow,  in  bad  spelling,  asking  for 
help.  Nobody  knows  the  work  until  he  is  in  it ;  and 
of  course,  with  all  this,  old  friends  hint  you  are 
changed,  you  are  forsaking  us  for  great  people, 
and  so  forth,  and  so  forth.  ^ 

Major  Dwyer  thought  that  no  man  was  ever  so  much 
improved  by  success  as  Thackeray,  and  testimony  to 
the  effect  that  the  novelist  was  a  most  agreeable  com- 
panion in  the  days  of  his  prosperity  has  been  borne  by 
friends  and  acquaintances  innumerable,  both  in  Eng- 
land and  the  United  States.  ^'  He  is  a  very  jolly 
fellow,  and  no  'High  Art 'about  him,"  said  Albert 
Smith,-  and  this,  coming  from  a  man  cast  in  a  very 
different  mould,  is  high  praise  ;  and  John  Hollings- 
head  has  written,  ''What  I  saw  of  Thackeray  im- 
pressed me  with  his  gentleness  and  charity.  Far  from 
being  a  cynic,  he  was  more  like  a  good-natured  school- 
boy."^ "Thackeray  drew  many  unto  him,  for  he  had 
engaging  as  well  as  fine  qualities.  He  was  open- 
handed  and  kind-hearted.     He  had  not  an  overween- 

1  Merivale  and  Marizals  :  Thackeray,  p.  150. 

2  J.  C.  JeafFreson :  A  Book  of  Recollections,  Vol.  I,  p.  285. 
^  My  Lifetime, 


IN   SOCIETY  271 

ing  opinion  of  his  literary  consequence,  and  he  was 
generous  as  regarded  the  people  whom  the  world  chose 
to  call  his  rivals."^  Thus  Frederick  Locker-Lampson, 
who  knew  him  well  ;  and  that  practical  man  of  affairs, 
Henry  Vizetelly,  has  contributed  his  portion  of  praise: 
**His  placid  temper  and  pleasant  courtesy  charmed 
all  who  came  into  contact  with  him.  .  .  .  Thackeray 
was  reticent  in  expressing  his  opinion  upon  people 
whom  he  did  not  like,  and  very  rarely  said  ill-natured 
things  about  anyone."^  *'  He  is  a  finer,  larger,  loveabler 
man,  or  rather  fellow,  than  ever,"  Dr.  John  Brown 
wrote  to  Lady  Trevelyan ; '  and  the  Rev.  Whitwell 
Elwin  declared,  "I  can  never  speak  of  him  without  a 
pang,  for  I  loved  him.  He  was  a  fine,  noble  man. 
His  manners  were  as  simple  as  a  child's.  He  had  no 
assumption,  no  affectation."* 

Thackeray  had  some  enemies,  of  course,  as  who 
among  the  fortunate  has  not?  Has  ever  a  successful 
man  gone  through  life  without  stirring  up  angry 
feelings  or  arousing  jealousy?  Dr.  Gordon  Hake, 
Serjeant  Ballantine,  and  others  have  said  unkind 
things  of  him  ;  but  the  majority  of  those  who  disliked 
him  did  so  because  they  did  not  understand  him. 
''Those  who  knew  him  best,"  said  George  Hodder, 
*'  loved  him  best."  He  was  a  sick,  as  well  as  an  over- 
worked, man,  often  suffering  pain  from  an  internal 
disease,  and  he  could  not  always  be  smiling.  One 
day  he  passed  a  friend  with  the  curtest  nod:  "Who 

^  Afy  Confidences. 

^  Glajices  Back  Through  Seventy  Years. 
'  Letters  of  Dr.  John  Brown,  p.  113. 

*  Whitwell  Elwin :  Sorne  Eighteenth  Century  Men  of  Letters,  Vol.  I, 
P-  157- 


2/2    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

would  have  thought,"  said  the  other,  ''that  we  were 
up  till  four  o'clock  this  morning  together?  He  sang 
his  'Dr.  Luther'  and  was  the  liveliest  of  us  all."^ 
Years  later  he  was  to  meet  Anthony  Trollope  for  the 
first  time  at  the  inaugural  dinner  given  by  George 
Smith  to  the  contributors  of  the  Cornhill  Magazine. 
Both  he  and  Trollope  had  looked  forward  to  the 
occasion ;  but  when  the  night  came,  and  the  pub- 
lisher introduced  Trollope,  Thackeray  said  abruptly, 
"  How  d'ye  do?"  and  turned  on  his  heel.^  These  are 
instances  of  what  Maunsell  B.  Field  called  the  great 
man's  "  moods  of  surly  incivility"  ;  but  in  reality  they 
were  merely  the  outcome  of  intense  physical  agony. 
It  is  more  pleasant  to  turn  to  the  picture  of  him  con- 
jured up  by  Mrs.  J.  F.  Fields.  "  I  seem  to  see  one 
kindly  face — large,  full  of  humour,  full  of  human 
sympathy.  The  face  belongs  to  Thackeray,  and  I  can 
recall  his  goodness  to  one  who,  although  married 
already,  was  hardly  more  than  'a  slip  of  a  girl,'  and 
very  much  afraid  of  him — afraid,  let  me  say,  rather  of 
the  idea  of  him,  the  great  author  and  famous  lecturer, 
who  was  making  his  crowded  audiences  laugh  and  cry 
at  his  simple  word  every  evening  ;  the  great  man  of 
the  moment  whom  everybody  was  '  running  after,' 
yet  of  whom  they  said  that  he  liked  his  friends  so 
much  better  than  all  their  noise  about  himself,  that 
he  was  always  trying  to  escape  from  it — and  here  he 
was  ! — coming  to  see — whom  ?  Well,  it  appears  it  did 
not  so  much  matter,  for  he  was  bent  on   kindnesses. 


^  Blanchard  Jerrold  :   The  Best  of  All  Good  Company. 
'  G.    M.     Smith:    Our  Birth    and   Parentage    (^Cornhill  Magazine, 
January   1901). 


THE    REAL   THACKERAY  273 

and  he  took  it  all  in  at  a  glance,  and  sat  down  by  the 
window,  and  drew  me  to  him,  and  told  me  about  his 
'  little  girls  '  at  home  ;  how  he  walked  down  the  wrong 
side  of  Piccadilly  one  day,  and  so  lost  what  money 
he  had  had  out  of  his  pocket — money  which  belonged 
properly  to  these  same  dear  girls  of  his  ;  therefore  it 
came  about  that  he  made  up  his  mind,  though  it  was 
hard  enough  to  come  away  from  them,  to  get  some- 
thing to  take  back  to  them  in  place  of  what  he  had 
lost ;  and  how  they  were  the  dearest  girls  in  the  world, 
and  when  I  came  to  England  I  should  find  them  more 
like  old  friends,  and  should  have  somebody,  I  am  sure, 
he  thought,  to  *  play  with,'  though,  under  the  circum- 
stances, he  could  not  use  just  those  words  !  And  then, 
soon  after,  he  went  away,  leaving  a  great  train  of 
sunshine  and  kindness  behind  him  which  has  never 
faded."! 

There  is  the  real  Thackeray,  the  Thackeray  who 
was  so  lavish  of  kindness,  and  lavish,  too,  not  only 
of  words,  but  of  money.  To  be  in  trouble  was  a  sure 
passport  to  his  heart.  His  charity  was  only  bounded 
by  his  means  ;  he  did  not  wait  to  be  asked  to  do  a 
favour ;  he  loved  to  anticipate,  not  merely  the  request, 
but  even  the  wish.  How  delicately,  too,  he  dispensed 
his  "  loans,"  as  he  called  the  alms  he  bestowed  upon 
those  less  fortunate  than  himself.  Lady  Ritchie  has 
related  how  he  filled  a  pill-box  with  Napoleons,  wrote 
on  it  "one  to  be  taken  occasionally  when  required," 
and  gave  it  to  his  mother  to  send  to  a  distressed  gentle- 
woman. We  are  told  by  Miss  Perry  how  he  visited 
an  old  acquaintance   in  very  reduced   circumstances, 

1  A  Shelf  of  Old  Books. 
1.— T 


274    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

administered  some  little  rebuke  on  the  thoughtlessness 
of  not  laying  by  some  of  the  easily  gained  gold  of 
youth  or  manhood  and,  slipping  into  a  blotting-book 
a  hundred-pound  note,  hurried  away.     '*I  never  saw 

him  do  it,"  said  poor  old  P .     "  I  was  very  angry 

because  he  said  I  had  been  a  reckless  old  goose — and 
then  a  hundred  pounds  falls  out  of  my  writing-book. 
God  bless  him  !" 

I  am  sincerely  sorry  to  hear  of  your  position  [he 
wrote  to  George  Hodder,  enclosing  a  cheque],  and 
send  this  contribution  which  came  so  opportunely 
from  another  friend,  whom  I  was  enabled  once  to 
help.  When  you  are  well-to-do  again  I  know  you 
will  pay  it  back,  and  I  daresay  somebody  else  will 
want  the  money,  which  is  heartily  at  your  service. 

The  money  *' which  came  so  opportunely  from  an- 
other friend  "  was  probably  a  pious  fiction  invented  to 
spare  the  recipient's  feelings  and  to  make  the  lender's 
generosity  appear  less  considerable  than  it  was,  for  he 
employed  this  method  more  than  once.  One  morning 
he  knocked  at  the  door  of  Horace  Mayhew's  chambers 
in  Regent  Street,  crying  from  without,  ''It's  no  use, 
Horry  Mayhew  ;  open  the  door."  On  entering  he  said 
cheerfully,  "Well,  young  gentleman,  you'll  admit  an 
old  fogy,"  and  when  leaving  he  remarked:  ''By  the 
way,  how  stupid  !  I  was  going  away  without  doing 
part  of  the  business  of  my  visit.  You  spoke  the  other 
day  of  poor  George.  Somebody — most  unaccountably 
— has  returned  me  a  five-pound  note  I  lent  him  long 
ago.  I  didn't  expect  it.  So  just  hand  it  to  George, 
and  tell  him  when  his  pocket  will  bear  it  to  pass  it  on 
to  some  poor  fellow  of  his  acquaintance.     By-bye  ! " 


HIS   GENEROSITY  275 

and  he  was  gone.  Trollope  has  related  how  he  met 
Thackeray  in  Whitehall  and  told  him  a  sad  story  of  a 
mutual  friend  who  required  a  loan  of  ;;^2000  to  save 
him  from  utter  ruin.  "  Do  you  mean  to  say  that  I 
am  to  find  ;^2000?"  Thackeray  said,  with  an  oath. 
Trollope  hastened  to  explain  that  he  had  not  sug- 
gested that,  he  had  thought  merely  that  they  might 
discuss  the  matter.  '*Then,"  says  Trollope,  'Uhere 
came  over  his  face  a  peculiar  smile,  and  a  wink  in  his 
eye,  and  he  whispered  his  suggestion,  as  though  half 
ashamed  of  his  meanness,  'I'll  go  half,'  he  said,  'if 
anybody  will  do  the  rest.'"^  Truly,  as  Trollope  re- 
marked, his  generosity  was  overflowing. 

Thackeray,  who  always  found  pleasure  in  hearing  ot 
kind  deeds,  and  telling  of  them,  was  always  himself 
doing  kind  things,  begging  somebody  to  ask  a  bishop 
for  a  living  for  a  curate  who  wanted  to  get  married, 
recommending  Marguerite  Power,  the  niece  of  his  friend 
Lady  Blessington,  for  the  post  of  Paris  Correspondent 
of  the  Illustrated  Lo7idon  News,  or  endeavouring  to 
set  an  impoverished  French  artist,  Louis  Marvy,  on 
his  feet. 

In  large  gatherings  Thackeray,  who  was  an  intensely 
shy  man,  was  inclined  to  be  satirical  and  severe  in  his 
conversation,  and  Lady  Dorothy  Nevill  has  told  us  how 
she  was  afraid  of  him  ever  after  she  heard  him  adminis- 
ter a  terrible  verbal  castigation  to  someone  who  had 
incurred  his  displeasure.  When,  at  a  dinner  party,  a 
dignified  man  of  letters  with  a  broken  nose  discoursed 
persistently  of  love,  ''What  has  the  world  come  to?" 
said  Thackeray  aloud,    "when  two  broken-nosed  old 

^  Anthony  Trollope  :  Thackeray,  p.  60. 


2/6    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

fogies  like  you  and  me  sit  talking  about  love  to  each 
other "  ;  and,  in  more  bitter  vein,  when  a  group  of 
members  of  the  Reform  Club  were  gossiping  unkindly 
of  another,  recently  deceased,  "That's  right,"  said 
Thackeray.  "Kick  him.  Trampleon  him.  He'sdead!'" 
He  reserved  these  onslaughts  for  those  whom  he  con- 
sidered stupid  people,  and  as  such  he  classed  those  who 
"do  not  know  how  to  laugh,  are  always  pompous  and 
self-conceited,  i.e.^  bigoted,  i.e.^  cruel,  i.e.^  ungentle, 
uncharitable,  unchristian."  When  he  found  he  had 
made  a  mistake  and  thought  ill  of  one  who  deserved 
otherwise,  he  was  always  anxious  without  delay  to  make 
the  amende  honorable.  He  had  always  disliked  John 
Wilson  Croker,  but  when,  after  that  unpopular  person 
was  dead,  someone  told  Thackeray  how  Croker  had 
begged  his  wife  to  seek  out  some  homeless  boys,  and 
let  them  stay  with  them  from  Saturday  to  Monday, 
saying,  "  They  will  destroy  your  flower-beds  and  upset 
my  inkstands,  but  we  can  help  them  more  than  they 
can  hurt  us,"  Thackeray  choked,  and  forthwith  went  to 
Mrs.  Croker  and  asked  her  pardon  for  ever  having 
entertained  unkindly  thoughts  of  her  husband. 

Thackeray  had  a  great  sense  of  fun  and  was  always 
ready  to  indulge  it.  This  broader  humour  seldom 
appears  in  his  writings  after  "  Major  Gahagan's  Remi- 
niscences," but  the  source  from  which  that  delightful 
burlesque  sprang,  never  dried  up,  and  his  love  of 
buffoonery  lasted  until  the  end.  Frederick  Locker- 
Lampson  remembered  seeing  him  pirouette,  wave  his 
arms  majestically,  and  declaim  in  burlesque — an  inten- 
tionally awkward  imitation  of  the  ridiculous  manner 
that  is  sometimes  met  with  in  French  opera ;  and  he 


AS  CONVERSATIONALIST  277 

also  recalled  an  occasion  when  he  was  talking  to 
Thackeray's  daughters,  their  father  put  on  his  visitor's 
hat,  many  sizes  too  small  for  him,  and  strutted  about 
flourishing  it  in  the  old  Lord  Cardigan  style. 

Dean  Hole  has  said  that  Thackeray  was  the  best 
talker  he  ever  listened  to  and  that  when  it  pleased  him 
to  talk,  "  he  said  so  many  good  things  .  .  .  that  they 
trod  down  and  suffocated  each  other"  ;  and,  wrote  Mrs. 
Browning  from  Rome  in  1854,  **If  anybody  wants 
small  talk  by  handfuls,  of  glittering  dust  swept  out  of 
salonSy  here's  Mr.  Thackeray."  He  was  not  a  wit  in 
the  sense  that  Sydney  Smith  and  Oscar  Wilde  were  ; 
but  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  he  must  have  said  far 
more  good  things  than  have  been  recorded.  When  he 
saw  in  a  window  off  the  Strand  the  legend,  **  Mutual 
Loan  Fund  Association,"  and  a  companion  wondered 
what  that  meant,  ''Oh,  it  means,"  said  the  novelist, 
**that  they  have  got  no  money  and  lend  it  to  each 

other."     ''If  that  d d  irreligious  fish  had  been  to 

afternoon  church,"  he  remarked  to  Sir  Mountstuart 
Grant  Duff,  with  whom  he  was  angling  one  Sunday, 
"  we  should  not  have  caught  him."  It  was  on  William 
Palmer  Hale,  famous  for  the  quantity  of  beer  he  could 
drink,  he  pronounced  this  epitaph:  "Take  him  for 
half-and-half,  we  shall  not  look  upon  his  like  again." 
When  outside  a  shop  he  saw  two  tubs  of  oysters  side 
by  side,  labelled  respectively  a  shilling  and  fifteen  pence 
a  dozen,  "  How  these,"  he  murmured,  looking  at  the 
cheaper  variety,  "must  hate  the  others." 

Charles  Mackay  has  put  it  on  record  that  Thackeray 
was  the  best  improvisatore  of  his  time,  and  certainly 
his  fondness  for  the  exercise  was  perennial.     He  was 


2/8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

always  rhyming  from  his  school-days  to  the  end  of  his 
life.  A  lady  begged  him  to  write  a  verse  in  her  album 
— a  practice  to  which  he  was  always  averse.  Turning 
over  the  pages,  however,  he  found  the  following  : 

"  Mont  Blanc  is  the  Monarch  of  Mountains, 
They  crowned  him  long  ago, 
But  who  they  got  to  put  it  on, 
Nobody  seems  to  know. 

"Albert  Smith." 

Then,  yielding  to  temptation,  he  took  up  a  pen  and 
wrote  immediately  underneath  : 

A  HUMBLE  SUGGESTION 

I  know  that  Albert  wrote  in  a  hurry — 

To  criticise  I  scarce  presume  ; 
But  yet,  methinks  that  Lindley  Murray 

Instead  of  '*  who  "  had  written  "  whom." 

W.  M.  Thackeray. 


I 


When  he  saw  the  lines  that  ''Soapy  Sam"  Wilber- 
force,  Bishop  of  Oxford,  had  written  on  the  unorthodox 
Bishop  Colenso,  jf 

'*  There  once  was  a  Bishop  of  Natal, 
Whose  doubts  on  the  Deluge  were  fatal ;  ' 

Said  the  infidel  Zulu, 
*  D'you  believe  this — you  fool,  you  ?  ' 
*  No,  I  don't,'  said  the  Bishop  of  Natal."  ' 

Thackeray  at  once  capped  it  with  : 

There  is  the  bold  Bishop  Colenso, 
Whose  heresies  seem  to  offend  so. 

Quoth  Sam  of  the  Soap, 

*'  Bring  fagot  and  rope  ; 
For  we  know  he  a'nt  got  no  friends,  oh  !  " 


\ 


IMPROMPTUS  279 

**  Little  Billee"  was  chanted  off  impromptu  at  a 
supper-party  at  Rome ;  and  there  are  many  other, 
though  minor,  instances  of  the  kind.  When  at  dinner 
one  day,  a  neighbour,  knowing  him  to  be  a  gourmet, 
asked  him  which  part  of  the  fowl  he  preferred,  with 
portentous  gravity  he  answered  : 

Oh  !  what's  the  best  part  of  a  fowl  ? 

My  own  Anastasia  cried  : 
Then,  giving-  a  terrible  howl, 

She  turned  on  her  stomach  and  died. 

Mere  fun,  mere  farcical  nonsense,  he  did  not,  of 
course,  value  highly.  When  he  was  asked  if  ''Vanity 
Fair"  would  be  funny,  he  retorted  that  it  would  be 
humorous.  He  had,  indeed,  the  same  keen  sense  of 
the  ridiculous  that  he  bestowed  upon  Becky  Sharp  ; 
and  it  was  this,  probably,  that  caused  him  at  times 
to  under-estimate  the  value  of  even  his  greatest  books  : 
he  could  not  always  take  himself  seriously  as  a  great 
writer,  and  he  was  inclined  to  doubt  the  merits  of  his 
creations.  As  with  every  true  humorist,  the  keynote 
to  his  character  is  sadness.  "  In  much  wisdom  is 
much  grief."  And,  above  all  else,  Thackeray  was 
wise  and  very  sad.  He  told  Dr.  John  Brown  how,  on 
one  occasion  at  Paris,  he  found  himself  in  a  great 
crowded  salon,  and  looking  from  one  end,  across  a  sea 
of  heads,  being  in  Swift's  place  of  calm  in  a  crowd 
("  an  inch  or  two  above  it"),  he  saw  at  the  other  end 
a  strange  visage,  staring  at  him  with  an  expression  of 
comical  woebegoneness ;  and  how,  after  a  little  while, 
he  found  this  rueful  being  was  himself  in  the  mirror. 
And  he  liked  to  relate  the  pathetic  story  of  the  sad- 


28o    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY 

looking  man  in  a  decline,  who,  consulting  a  great 
physician,  was  recommended  to  go  to  the  pantomime, 
where  the  sight  of  Harlequin  would  be  sure  to  do  him 
good,  and  cheer  him  up.  "  I  am  Harlequin,"  said  the 
patient  simply. 

Thackeray  loved  his  home  and  his  friends,  and 
books,  drawings  and  music  :  he  enjoyed  a  good  dinner, 
and  sometimes  a  jovial  party  ;  but  Vanity  Fair  seemed 
to  him  a  sad  place. 

A  man  with  a  reflective  turn  of  mind,  walking 
through  an  exhibition  of  this  sort  (Vanity  Fair),  will 
not  be  oppressed,  I  take  it,  by  his  own  or  other 
people's  hilarity.  An  episode  of  humour  or  kindness 
touches  and  amuses  him  here  and  there  ; — a  pretty 
child  looking  at  a  gingerbread  stall ;  a  pretty  girl 
blushing  whilst  her  lover  talks  to  her  and  chooses 
her  fairing  ;  poor  Tom  Fool,  yonder  behind  the  wag- 
gon, mumbling  his  bone  with  the  honest  family  which 
lives  by  his  tumbling  ;  but  the  general  impression  is 
one  more  melancholy  than  mirthful.  When  you 
come  home,  you  sit  down,  in  a  sober,  contemplative, 
not  uncharitable  frame  of  mind,  and  apply  yourself 
to  your  books  or  your  business.^ 

The  world  called  to  him,  as  it  had  done  to  Cruik- 
shank,  and  so  many  others,  '*  Make  us  laugh,  or  you 
and  your  children  starve."  He  did  his  best,  but  he 
could  not  assume  the  role  of  farceur  for  very  long  at 
a  time.  He  might  be  cutting  the  most  amusing  jokes 
in  a  private  company,  or  writing  the  most  amusing 
verses  for  the  public ;  but  generally  there  can  be 
found,  under  the  surface,  a  touch  of  pathos,  or  of 
melancholy. 

^    Vanity  Fair — Before  the  Curtain. 


HIS   SADNESS  281 

What  funny  things  I've  written  when  fit  to  hang 
myself  [he  said  in  one  letter  to  Mrs.  Brookfield  ;  and 
in  another]  :  I  did  the  doggerel  verses,  which  were 
running  in  my  head  when  I  last  wrote  you,  and  they 
are  very  lively.  You'd  say  the  author  must  have 
been  in  the  height  of  good  spirits  !  .  .  .  No,  you 
wouldn't,  knowing  his  glum  habit,  and  dismal  views 
of  life  generally. 

This  he  repeated  in  *'The  Pen  and  the  Album": 

I've  helped  him  to  pen  many  a  line  for  bread  ; 

To  joke,  with  sorrow  aching  in  his  heart ; 
And  make  your  laughter  when  his  own  heart  bled. 

Fate,  dealing  harshly  with  him,  had  made  memory 
painful,  and  it  distressed  him  to  read  his  own  writings. 

Our  books  are  diaries,  in  which  our  own  feelings 
must  of  necessity  be  set  down.  As  we  look  to  the 
page  written  last  month,  or  ten  years  ago,  we  re- 
member the  day  and  its  events;  the  child  ill,  mayhap, 
in  the  adjoining  room,  and  the  doubts  and  fears 
which  racked  the  brain  as  it  still  pursued  its  work  ; 
the  dear  old  friend  who  read  the  commencement 
of  the  tale,  and  whose  gentle  hand  shall  be  laid  in 
ours  no  more.  I  own  for  my  part  that,  in  reading 
pages  which  this  hand  penned  formerly,  I  often  lose 
sight  of  the  text  under  my  eyes.  It  is  not  the  words 
I  see,  but  that  past  day  ;  that  bygone  page  of  life's 
history  ;  that  tragedy,  comedy  it  may  be,  which  our 
little  home  company  was  enacting ;  that  merry- 
making which  we  shared  ;  that  funeral  which  we 
followed  ;  that  bitter,  bitter  grief  which  we  buried,^ 

J  De  Finibus, 


CHAPTER   XV 

PUNCH  (1847-1854) 

Thackeray's  earnings  in  1848 — success  of  "Vanity  Fair"  in  book-form 
— Thackeray  resigns  the  assistant-editorship  of  the  Examiner — and 
retires  from  the  staff  of  Frasers  Magazhie — his  Christmas  Books — the 
Times  attack  on  *'  The  Kickleburys  on  the  Rhine  " — and  Thackeray's 
reply,  "An  Essay  on  Thunder  and  Small  Beer" — Thackeray  sensitive 
to  criticism — but  makes  jokes  at  his  own  expense — writes  again  for 
the  Morning  Chronicle — his  contributions  to  Punch  from  1847 — 
"  Punch's  Prize  Novelists  " — "  Mr.  Brown's  Letters  to  a  Young  Man 
About  Town" — the  "  Proser  Papers" — withdraws  from  Punch  in 
1854 — his  reference  to  his  withdrawal  in  his  article  on  John  Leech — a 
slip  of  the  pen — his  letter  to  the  proprietors  of  Punch  concerning  his 
resignation — he  attends  the  dinners  to  the  end — his  indebtedness 
to  Punch — Punch's  tribute  to  him — and  his  to  Punch — his  friends  on 
the  staff — Douglas  Jerrold — Thackeray's  Ballads — "  Bow  Street 
Ballads" — "  Lyra  Hibernica" — his  limitations  as  a  writer  of  verse — 
his  sense  of  parody — and  of  tenderness — "  The  Cane-Bottomed 
Chair" — "  St.  Sophia  of  Kioff  " — "  The  Chronicle  of  the  Drum  " — his 
merits  as  a  writer  of  light  and  humorous  verse. 

WHEN  ''Vanity  Fair"  was  coming  out 
Thackeray  told  his  mother  that  while 
this  novel  greatly  enhanced  his  reputa- 
tion, it  did  not  materially  increase  his 
income.  That  income,  however,  was  not  contemp- 
tible:  ''Vanity  Fair"  alone  brought  him  in  fifty 
guineas  a  month,  the  profits  of  his  Christmas  Books 
and  of  the  "Snob  Papers"  and  "The  Great  Hoggarty 
Diamond "  in  book-form  were  considerable,  and  he 
received  a  handsome  salary  from  Punchy  a§  well  as 

282 


WILLIAM    MAKEPEACE   THACKEKAV 
From  a  painting  by  Samuel  Laui-ence  in  the  National  Portrait  Gallery 


1847]  "MRS.   PERKINS'S   BALL"  283 

remuneration  for  articles  and  reviews  elsewhere  :  he 
must  have  been  earning  at  least  ;!^iooo  a  year.  That 
he  was  soon  making  more  than  that  there  can  be  no 
doubt,  for  1500  copies  of  ''Vanity  Fair"  in  book-form 
were  sold  immediately  after  publication,  and  for  "  Pen- 
dennis"  he  received  more  money  than  for  the  earlier 
story.  He  was  doing  well  enough  in  1848  to  resign 
the  assistant-editorship  of  the  Exajnmer  which,  at  a 
salary  of  ;^20o  a  year,  he  had  held  since  1844  under  the 
editorship  of  Albany  Fonblanque. 

From  Eraser's  Magazine  he  had  retired  on  the  eve 
of  the  publication  of  ''Vanity  Fair,"  and  he  took  his 
farewell  of  the  readers  he  had  delighted  for  more  than 
ten  years  with  story,  verse,  reviews,  and  sketches,  in 
the  following  characteristic  passage  on  "the  very  last 
page  of  the  very  last  sheet "  of  the  number  for  January 
1847: 

Ha!  what  have  we  here? — M.  A.  Titmarsh's 
Christmas  Book — Mrs,  Perkinses  Ball.  Dedicated 
to  the  Mulligan  of  Ballymulligan.  Ballymulligan  ! 
Bally  fiddlestick!  What  jj/om,  too,  Mr.  Titmarsh? 
You,  you  sneering  wretch,  setting  up  a  Christmas- 
book  of  your  own?  This,  then,  is  the  meaning  of 
your  savage  feelings  towards  "the  minor  fiddlers"  ! 
Is  your  kit,  sirrah,  any  bigger  than  theirs?  You, 
who  in  the  columns  of  this  very  Magazine,  have 
sneered  at  the  works  of  so  many  painters,  look  at 
your  own  performances  ! 

Some  of  your  folks  have  scarcely  more  legs  than 
Miss  Biffin  ;  they  have  fins  instead  of  hands, — they 
squint,  almost  every  one  of  them  ! 

All  this  is  quite  true.  But  see  where  we  have 
come  to? — to  the  very  last  page  of  the  very  last 
sheet ;   and  the  writer  is   called  upon  to   stop  just 


284   WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1S47- 

at  the  very  moment  he  was  going  to  cut  his  own 
head  off. 

So  have  I  seen  Mr.  Clown  (in  that  Christmas 
drama  which  has  been  foremost  in  my  thought  during 
all  the  above  meditations)  set  up  the  gallows,  adjust 
the  rope,  try  the  noose  curiously,  and — tumble  head 
over  heels.^ 

Thackeray's  withdrawal  from  the  Examiner  and 
Erasers  Magazine  enabled  him  to  devote  himself  to 
work  that  was  more  remunerative.  He  followed  his 
first  Christmas  Book,  *'Mrs.  Perkins's  Ball,"  with 
others,  and  in  December  of  each  year  from  1847  to 
1850  he  issued,  one  by  one,  ''Our  Street",  ''Dr. 
Birch  and  his  Young  Friends",  "The  Kickleburys  on 
the  Rhine,"  and  "Rebecca  and  Rowena,"  the  last 
founded  upon  the  earlier  "  Proposals  for  a  Continuation 
of  Ivanhoe."2  "The  Kickleburys  on  the  Rhine"  was 
severely  handled  by  the  Times  and,  the  review  happen- 
ing to  appear  just  before  the  second  edition  went  to 
press,  Thackeray,  always  sensitive  to  criticism,  took 
the  opportunity  to  write  a  preface,  "Being  an  Essay 
on  Thunder  and  Small  Beer." 

I  would  rather  have  a  good  word  than  a  bad  one 
from  any  person  :  but  if  a  critic  abuses  me  from  a 
high  place,  and  it  is  worth  my  while,  I  will  appeal 
[he  wrote].  If  I  can  show  that  the  judge  who  is 
delivering  sentence  against  me,  and  laying  down 
the  law  and  making  a  pretence  of  learning,  has  no 
learning  and  no  law,  and  is  neither  more  nor  less 
than  a  pompous  noodle,  who  ought  not  to  be  heard 
in  any  respectable  court,   I  will   do  so ;    and  then, 

^  A  Grumble  at  the  Christmas  Books.  Thackeray  in  January  1853 
contributed  one  more  paper  to  Eraser  s  Magazine  :  "  Mr.  Thackeray  in 
the  United  States.     John  Small  to  the  Editor  of  Eraser's  Magazine." 

^  Eraser's  Magazine^  August  and  September,  1846. 


i8S4]  "THE  KICKLEBURYS  ON  THE  RHINE"  285 

dear  friends,   perhaps  you  will  have   something   to 
laugh  at  in  this  book. 

He  reprinted  the  Times  review  in  this  preface  and 
made  very  merry  over  it. 

Why,  a  man  who  can  say  of  a  Christmas  book  [he 
retorted]  that  "it  is  an  opuscule  denominated  so- 
and-so,  and  ostensibly  intended  to  swell  the  tide  of 
expansive  emotion  incident  upon  the  exodus  of  the 
old  year,"  must  evidently  have  had  immense  sums 
and  care  expended  on  his  early  education,  and  de- 
serves a  splendid  return.  You  can't  go  into  the 
market,  and  get  scholarship  like  that,  without  paying 
for  it :  even  the  flogging  that  such  a  writer  must 
have  had  in  early  youth  (if  he  was  at  a  public  school 
where  the  rods  were  paid  for)  must  have  cost  his 
parents  a  good  sum.  Where  would  you  find  any 
but  an  accomplished  classical  scholar  to  compare  the 
books  of  the  present  (or  indeed  any  other)  writer  to 
''sardonic  divings  after  the  pearl  of  truth,  whose 
lustre  is  eclipsed  in  the  display  of  the  diseased 
oyster  "  ;  mere  Billingsgate  doesn't  turn  out  oysters 
like  these ;  they  are  of  the  Lucrine  lake : — this 
satirist  has  pickled  his  rods  in  Latin  brine.  Fancy, 
not  merely  a  diver,  but  a  sardonic  diver :  and  the 
expression  of  his  confounded  countenance  on  dis- 
covering not  only  a  pearl,  but  an  eclipsed  pearl, 
which  was  in  a  diseased  oyster  I  I  say  it  is  only 
by  an  uncommon  and  happy  combination  of  taste, 
genius,  and  industry,  that  a  man  can  arrive  at  utter- 
ing such  sentiments  in  such  fine  language, — that 
such  a  man  ought  to  be  well  paid,  as  I  have  no 
doubt  he  is,  and  that  he  is  worthily  employed  to 
write  literary  articles,  in  large  type,  in  the  leading 
journal  of  Europe.  Don't  we  want  men  of  eminence 
and  polite  learning  to  sit  on  the  literary  bench,  and 
to  direct  the  public  opinion  ? 

The  culprit  was  a  friend  of  Thackeray,  Charles  Lamb 
Kenney,  and  very  cynically  he  explained  the  reason 


286    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

for  the  tone  in  which  he  had  spoken  of  *'The  Kickle- 
burys  on  the  Rhine."  *'  My  only  motive  for  pitching 
into  the  book  was  to  please  my  employers,"  he  told 
Jeaffreson.  "Thackeray  was  not  liked  by  them,  and 
I  wished  them  to  like  me.  My  friendly  regard  for  the 
writer  of  the  poor  book  was  overborne  by  a  strong 
sense  of  my  duty  to  the  public,  and  a  still  stronger  care 
for  my  own  interest."^  If  the  editor  of  the  Times  did 
not  like  Thackeray,  the  novelist  was  unaware  of  it,  for 
in  185 1  when  Mark  Lemon  would  not  print  the  "  May- 
Day  Ode  "  in  Punch  because  the  manuscript  arrived 
late,  Thackeray  took  it  to  Printing  House  Square, 
which  took  it  gladly  and  paid  generously  for  it. 
The  Times,  however,  attacked  "Esmond,"  and  this 
Thackeray  could  not  forgive. 

As  for  the  little  hint  about  Printing  House  Square 
[Thackeray  wrote  in  1858  to  Captain  Atkinson,  the 
author  of  "  Curry  and  Rice,"  in  which  volume  first 
appeared  the  verses,  "Little  Billee "]  I  know  the 
editor  and  most  of  the  writers,  and,  knowing,  never 
think  of  asking  a  favour  for  myself  or  any  mortal 
man.  They  are  awful  and  inscrutable,  and  a  request 
for  a  notice  might  bring  down  a  slasher  upon  you, 
just  as  I  once  had  in  the  Times  for  one  of  my  own 
books  ("  Esmond  "),  of  which  the  sale  was  absolutely 
stopped  by  a  Times  article.- 

Thackeray,  indeed,  was  often  strangely  sensitive  to 
criticism,  though  he  would  make  jokes  at  his  own 
expense,  or,  in  an  aside,  would  chuckle  at  his  critics. 
In  "  Mr.  Brown's  Letters"  we  learn  that 

Horner  is  asleep  in  the  library  at  the  Polyanthus : 

1  J.  C.  Jeaffreson  :  A  Book  of  Recollections,  Vol.  I,  p.  296. 
-  Leisure  Hour,  September  1883. 


i8S4]  HIS   SENSITIVENESS  287 

What   is   he   reading?     Hah!      "Pendennis,"  No. 
VIII. — hum,  let  us  pass  on, 

and  on  the  previous  page  is  the  drawing  illustrative 
of  the  episode. 

The  heroine  is  not  faultless  (ah  !  that  will  be  a 
great  relief  to  some  folks,  for  many  writers'  good 
women  are,  you  know,  so  very  insipid), 

he  said  in  ''Lovel  the  Widower,"  probably  thinking 
of  the  strictures  passed  upon  Amelia  in  "Vanity 
Fair  "  ;  and  later  in  the  same  novel  he  wrote  : 

Some  authors,  who  shall  be  nameless,  are,  I  know, 
accused  of  depicting  the  most  feeble,  brainless, 
namby-pamby  heroines,  for  ever  whimpering  tears, 
and  prattling  commonplaces. 

When  Thackeray  said,  *'They  have  only  bought  so 
many  of  my  new  book";  or,  "Have  you  seen  the 
abuse  of  my  new  number?"  or,  "  What  am  I  to  turn 
my  hand  to?  They  are  getting  tired  of  my  novels," 
Trollope  admitted  that  he  could  not  understand 
him.  Trollope  remarked  that  he  knew  authors  who 
boasted  of  their  thousands  of  copies  sold,  but  he  had 
never  heard  any  other  writer  declare  that  no  one  would 
read  his  masterpiece,  and  that  the  world  was  becoming 
tired  of  him;  and  he  was  puzzled  accordingly.  Yet  the 
cause  of  such  remarks  lay  but  little  below  the  surface. 
Thackeray  spoke  so,  not  because  he  was  indifferent  to 
success  or  the  opinion  of  his  contemporaries,  but  be- 
cause the  pain  inflicted  by  these  wounds  would  have 
been  greater  if  he  had  thought  anyone  else  would 
sympathise  with  him.  He  preferred  to  say,  "This 
book  is  a  failure,"  rather  than  let  anyone  else  tell  him 


288    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [i847- 

he  had  not  succeeded.  He  was  anxious  to  avoid 
criticism  by  himself  turning  critic.  Sometimes  he  was 
almost  absurdly  sensitive,  and  Frederick  Locker- 
Lampson  has  related  a  strange  instance  of  this 
exaggerated  susceptibility  to  criticism.  *'I  happened 
to  meet  him  as  I  was  leaving  the  Travellers'  Club. 
Even  now  I  think  I  could  point  out  the  particular  flag- 
stone on  which  the  dear  fellow  was  standing,  as  he 
gazed  down  on  me  through  his  spectacles  with  that 
dreary  expression  of  his  which  his  friends  knew  so 
well.  He  said,  '  What  do  you  think  of  the  last 
number?'  (No.  2  or  3  of  'The  Newcomes.')  He  him- 
self was  evidently  not  satisfied  with  it.  '  I  like  it 
immensely,'  was  my  cordial  rejoinder.  A  word  or 
two  more  passed  respecting  the  illustrations,  which 
had  been  sharply  criticised,  and  just  as  we  parted, 
I  was  tactless  enough  to  add,  '  But,  my  dear  fellow, 
perhaps  there  may  be  some  kind  people  who  will  say 
that  you  did  the  cuts  and  Doyle  the  letter-press.'  On 
this  Thackeray's  jaw  dropped,  and  he  exclaimed 
bitterly,  *I — Oh!  really,  that's  your  opinion,  is  it?' 
I  saw  at  once  what  a  mistake  I  had  made,  but  I  could 
only  reply,  '  I  spoke  in  fun,  pure  fun ;  you  know 
perfectly  well  how  much  I  admire  your  writings,  and 
also  Doyle's  cuts.'  But  Thackeray  would  have  none 
of  it,  and  turned  wrathfully  away  in  the  direction  of 
Pimlico.  However,  his  wrath,  I  presume,  died  away 
in  the  large  and  charitable  air  of  the  Green  Park,  for 
when  I  met  him  the  day  after  he  was  as  amiable  as 
ever.  The  fact  is  I  had  so  exalted  an  opinion  of 
Thackeray  and  of  his  writing  that  it  seemed  impossible 
such  a  demi-god  should  care  for  aught  anybody  said  ; 


i854]  "PRIZE    NOVELISTS"  289 

whereas,  like  Tennyson,  he  felt  anything  that  every- 
body said."^ 

The  great  mass  of  Thackeray's  miscellaneous 
writings  after  the  publication  of  "Vanity  Fair" 
appeared  in  Punch.  A  glance  at  the  Bibliography  at 
the  end  of  this  work  will  show  how  numerous  were  his 
contributions  both  with  pen  and  pencil  during  the 
years  that  ''Vanity  Fair"  and  "Pendennis"  were 
being  published.  In  1847,  after  the  "Snob  Papers" 
were  brought  to  a  conclusion  in  February,  began  the 
series  of  parodies  of  contemporary  novelists,  then 
called  "Punch's  Prize  Novelists,"  and  rechristened 
"Novels  by  Eminent  Hands."  Among  his  subjects 
were  to  be  Dickens  and  himself,  but  Mark  Lemon 
would  not  have  the  parody  on  Dickens,  and  so  neither 
was  written  :  Lytton,  Mrs.  Gore,  G.  P.  R.  James,  Feni- 
more  Cooper,  were  burlesqued  ;  and  Lever,  who  after 
reading  "Phil  Fogarty"  declared  he  might  as  well 
shut  up  shop  and  did  actually  alter  the  character  of 
his  novels;  and  Disraeli,  who  never  forgave  "  Cod- 
lingsby,"  and  took  a  belated  revenge  by  maliciously 
caricaturing  Thackeray  as  St.  Barbe  in  "Endymion." 
The  "  Prize  Novelists"  were  followed  in  1849  by  "  Mr. 
Brown's  Letters  to  a  Young  Man  about  Town,"  so  full 
of  worldly  wisdom  ;  and  these,  in  their  turn,  by  the 
"  Proser  Papers,"  which  in  some  ways  were  a  con- 
tinuation of  "Mr.  Brown's  Letters."  After  1850 
Thackeray  wrote  less  for  Punch,  and  his  last  con- 
tribution, "A  Second  Letter  to  an  Eminent  Person," 
appeared  in  the  issue  for  September  23,  1854,  about 
which  time  he  severed  his  connection  with  the  paper. 

^  My  Confidences. 
I.— U 


290    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

Four  years  before,  Richard  Doyle  had  retired  from 
the  Round  Table,  and  to  this  and  his  own  resignation 
Thackeray  made  reference  in  his  article  on  that  other 
invaluable  contributor  to  Punch. 

Through  the  violent  opinions  which  Mr.  Punch 
expressed  regarding  the  Roman  Catholic  hierarchy, 
he  lost  the  invaluable  services,  the  graceful  pencil, 
the  harmless  wit,  the  charming  fancy,  of  Mr.  Doyle. 
Another  member  of  Mr.  Punch's  cabinet,  the 
biographer  of  Jeames,  the  author  of  the  Snob 
Papers,  resigned  his  functions  on  account  of  Mr. 
Punch's  assaults  upon  the  present  Emperor  of  the 
French,  whose  anger  Jeames  thought  it  was  un- 
patriotic to  arouse.^ 

It  was  unfortunate  that  just  after  leaving  Punch  he 
should  have  inadvertently  written  a  line  that  gave 
offence  to  his  colleagues  on  the  staff  of  that  paper.  It 
occurred  in  the  article  on  Leech  just  mentioned. 

There  is  no  blinking  the  fact  that  in  Mr.  Punch's 
cabinet  John  Leech  is  the  right  hand  man.  Fancy  a 
number  of  Punch  without  Leech's  pictures  !  What 
would  you  give  for  it?  The  learned  gentlemen  who 
write  the  work  must  feel  that,  without  him,  it  were  as 
well  left  alone. 

Naturally  the  Punch  authors  were  indignant,  and 
Thackeray  could  only  explain  it,  when  writing  to 
Whitwell  Elwin  (the  editor  of  the  Quarterly  Review),  by 
saying  that  he  ''slipped  it  over  totally  in  the  proof. 
.  .  .  But  we  get  to  write  as  fast  as  we  talk."^  To 
"  Professor  "  Percival  Leigh,  the  author  of  the  "  Comic 

^  A  review  of  "  Picture  of  Life  and  Character,"  by  John  Leech 
{Quarlcrly  Review,  December  1854). 

2  Whitwell  Elwin  :  Soyne  Eighteenth  Century  Men  of  Letters  (Memoir 
of  Elwin.      By  his  Son),  Vol.  I,  p.  155. 


i8S4]  A    SLIP   OF   THE   PEN  291 

Latin  Grammar,"  and  one  of  the  oldest  contributors  to 
Punchy  he  unreservedly  expressed  his  regret. 

Of  all  the  slips  of  my  fatal  pen,  there's  none  I  regret 
more  than  the  unlucky  half-line  which  has  given  pain 
to  such  a  kind  and  valued  old  friend  as  you  have 
been,  and  I  trust  will  be  still  to  me.  I  ought  never 
to  have  said  ''^  Punch  might  as  well  be  left  unwritten 
but  for  Leech."  It  was  more  than  my  meaning, 
which  is  certainly  that  the  drawing  is  a  hundred  times 
more  popular  than  the  writing  ;  but  I  had  no  busi- 
ness to  write  any  such  thing,  and  forgot  it  so  much 
that  I  was  quite  surprised  when  I  first  heard  I  had 
been  accused  of  sneering  at  Punch.  I  knew  when  I 
came  back  from  Paris,  and  read  the  line  in  the 
Quarterly  Review^  which  I  had  forgotten  as  utterly 
as  many  another  speech  which  I  have  made  and  didn't 
ought.  Jerrold  has  had  his  fire  into  me,  and,  do  you 
know,  I  feel  rather  comforted. 

Thackeray,  having  made  the  amende  honorable y  asked 
the  Punch  staff  to  dinner,  and  the  Punch  staff  came 
and  made  merry  ;  but  the  blunder,  though  forgiven, 
was  not  forgotten,  and  it  became  rumoured  that  it 
was  owing  to  this  that  Thackeray  had  retired  from  the 
paper.  Thackeray,  hearing  this,  wrote  on  March  24, 
1855,  to  "Pater"  Evans,  and  placed  the  true  version 
on  record. 

I  find  a  note  of  yours  dated  Feb.  5,  in  which 
F.  M.  E.  states  that  my  account  shall  be  prepared 
directly.  F.  M.  E.  has  a  great  deal  to  do  and  pay 
and  think  of,  but  W.  M.  T.  has  also  his  engage- 
ments. 

I  hope  your  "Poetry  of  Punch"  will  not  be  pub- 
lished before  my  collected  Ballads — You  remember 
(you  wrote  me  a  letter  expressly  on  the  subject)  that 
the  Copyright  of  all  articles  in  "  Punch"  were  mine, 
by  stipulation — and  my  book  would   be  very  much 


292    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

hurt  by  the  appearance  of  another  containing  f  of  its 
contents. 

I  met  Murray  the  publisher  the  other  day,  and 
cannot  help  fancying  from  his  manner  to  me  that 
there  is  some  screw  loose  with  him  too  about  that 
unlucky  Leech  article.  Lemon,  answering  one  of  my 
letters,  said  that  he  personally  complained,  that  my 
account  of  leaving  Punch  was  not  correct. 

There  was  such  a  row  at  the  time,  and  I  was  so 
annoyed  at  the  wrong  that  I  had  done,  that  I  thought 
I  had  best  leave  Lemon's  remonstrance  for  a  while 
and  right  it  on  some  future  occasion. 

I  recall  now  to  you  and  beg  you  to  show  to  him 
and  to  any  other  persons  who  may  have  received  a 
different  version  of  the  story — what  the  facts  were.  I 
had  had  some  serious  public  differences  with  the  Con- 
duct of  Punch — about  the  abuse  of  Prince  Albert 
and  the  Crystal  Palace  on  which  I  very  nearly 
resigned,  about  abuse  of  Lord  Palmerston,  about 
abuse  finally  of  L.  Napoleon — in  all  which  Punch 
followed  the  Times,  which  I  think  and  thought  was 
writing  unjustly  at  that  time,  and  dangerously  for 
the  welfare  and  peace  of  the  Country. 

Coming  from  Edinburgh  I  bought  a  Punch  contain- 
ing the  picture  of  a  Beggar  on  Horseback,  in  which 
the  Emperor  was  represented  galloping  to  Hell  with  a 
sword  reeking  with  blood.  As  soon  as  ever  I  could 
after  my  return  (a  day  or  2  days  after),  I  went  to 
Bouverie  St.,  saw  you  and  gave  in  my  resignation. 

I  mention  this  because  I  know  the  cause  of  my 
resignation  has  been  questioned  at  Punch — because 
this  was  the  cause  of  it.  I  talked  it  over  with  you, 
and  Leech  saw  me  coming  out  of  your  room,  and  I 
told  him  of  my  retirement. 

No  engagement  afterwards  took  place  between  us; 
nor  have  I  ever  since  been  a  member  of  Punch's 
Cabinet,  so  to  speak.  Wishing  you  all  heartily  well, 
I  wrote  a  few  occasional  papers  last  year — and  not 
liking  the  rate  of  remuneration,  which  was  less  than 
that  to  which  I  had  been  accustomed  in  my  time — I 
wrote  no  more. 


i8s4]  COMRADES   ON   PUNCH  293 

And  you  can  say  for  me  as  a  reason  why  I  should 
feel  hurt  at  your  changing  the  old  rates  of  payment 
made  to  me — that  I  am  not  a  man  who  quarrels  about 
a  guinea  or  two  except  as  a  point  of  honour  ;  and 
that  when  I  could  have  had  a  much  larger  sum  than 
that  which  you  gave  me  for  my  last  novel — I  preferred 
to  remain  with  old  friends  who  had  acted  honourably 
and  kindly  by  me. 

I  reproach  myself  with  having  written  \  a  line 
regarding  my  old  Punch  Companions — which  was 
perfectly  true,  which  I  have  often  said — but  which 
I  ought  not  to  have  written.  No  other  wrong  that  I 
know  of  have  I  done.  And  I  think  it  is  now  about 
time  that  my  old  friends  and  publishers  should  set 
me  right. 

To  the  last  Thackeray  would,  from  time  to  time, 
attend  the  weekly  dinners,  where  a  place  was  always 
kept  for  him  ;  and  to  the  last  he  cherished  kindly 
thoughts  for  the  paper  and  all  who  were  connected 
with  it.  "Ah,  Swain,"  he  said  one  day,  "if  it  had 
not  been  for  Punch,  I  wonder  where  I  should  be";  and 
when  an  old  friend  on  the  staff  died,  he  was  the  first  to 
come  forward  and  suggest  that  he  and  his  colleagues 
should  offer  assistance  to  the  widow  and  family. 

Can't  we,  his  old  comrades,  do  something  to  show 
his  poor  widow  and  family  our  sense  of  his  worth? 
He  has  a  son  at  Christ  Church  where,  with  the 
family's  altered  means,  it  may  not  be  convenient  to 
support  the  young  man.  Is  the  career  likely  to  be 
serviceable  to  him,  and  would  he  desire  to  continue 
it?  I  shall  be  heartily  glad  to  give  iJ^ioo  towards  a 
fund  for  his  maintenance  at  Oxford,  should  he  think 
fit  to  remain  there.  Others  of  our  friends,  no  doubt, 
would  join  in  it.  It  is  through  my  connection  with 
Punch  that  I  owe  the  good  chances  that  have  lately 
befallen  me,  and  have  had  so  many  kind  offers  of 


294    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

help  in  my  own  days  of  trouble,  that  I  would  thank- 
fully aid  a  friend  whom  Death  has  called  away.^ 

On  the  sad  Christmas  Eve  when  Thackeray  died,  the 
Punch  staff  met  "round  the  old  tree,"  mournful  and 
sad.  ''I'll  tell  you  what  we'll  do,"  said  Horace  May- 
hew.  "We'll  sing  the  dear  old  boy's  'Mahogany 
Tree';  he'd  like  it."  Accordingly  they  stood  up,  and 
with  such  memory  of  the  words  as  each  possessed,  and 
a  catching  of  the  breath  here  and  there  by  about  all  of 
them,  the  song  was  sung.  "While  generous  tributes 
are  everywhere  being  paid  to  the  genius  of  him  who 
has  been  suddenly  called  away  in  the  fullness  of  his 
power  and  the  maturity  of  his  fame,  some  who  have 
for  many  years  enjoyed  the  advantage  of  his  assistance 
and  the  delight  of  his  society,  would  simply  record 
that  they  have  lost  a  dear  friend,"  so  runs  the  obituary 
notice  in  Punch.  "At  an  early  period  in  the  history  of 
the  periodical  he  became  a  contributor  to  its  pages,  and 
he  long  continued  to  enrich  them  ;  and  though  of  late 
he  had  ceased  to  give  other  aid  than  suggestions  and 
advice,  he  was  a  constant  member  of  our  council,  and 
sat  with  us  on  the  eighth  day  from  that  which  has 
saddened  England's  Christmas.  Let  the  brilliancy  of 
his  trained  intellect,  the  terrible  strength  of  his  satire, 
the  subtlety  of  his  wit,  the  richness  of  his  humour,  and 
the  catholic  range  of  his  calm  wisdom,  be  themes  for 
others  ;  the  mourning  friends  who  inscribe  these  lines 
to  his  memory  think  of  the  affectionate  nature,  the  cheer- 
ful companionship,  the  large  heart  and  the  open  hand, 
the  simple  courteousness,  the  endearing  frankness  of  a 

^  H.  Vizetelly :  Glances  Back  Through  Seventy  Years,  Vol.  II, 
p.  108. 


i8s4]  APPRECIATION   OF   PUNCH  295 

brave,  true,  honest  gentleman,  whom  no  pen  but  his 
own  could  depict  as  those  who  knew  him  most  desire.  "^ 
Not  less  magnificent  was  the  compliment  Thackeray- 
had  paid  to  Punch : 

When  the  future  enquirer  shall  take  up  your 
volumes,  or  a  bundle  of  French  plays,  and  contrast 
the  performance  of  your  booth  with  that  of  the 
Parisian  theatre,  he  won't  fail  to  remark  how  different 
they  are,  and  what  different  objects  we  admire  or 
satirise.  As  for  your  morality,  sir,  it  does  not  be- 
come me  to  compliment  you  to  your  venerable  face  ; 
but  permit  me  to  say  there  never  was  before  pub- 
lished so  many  volumes  that  contained  so  much 
cause  for  laughing,  and  so  little  for  blushing,  so 
many  jokes,  and  so  little  harm.  Why,  sir,  say 
even  your  modesty,  which  astonishes  me  more  and 
more  every  time  I  regard  you,  is  calculated,  and 
not  a  virtue  naturally  inherent  in  you,  that  very 
fact  would  argue  for  the  high  sense  of  the  public 
morality  among  us.  We  will  laugh  in  the  company 
of  our  wives  and  children  ;  we  will  tolerate  no  in- 
decorum ;  we  like  that  our  matrons  and  girls  should 
be  pure. 

His  colleagues  on  Punch  might  well  deplore 
Thackeray's  death,  for  he  had  been  a  friend  of  almost 
all  of  them,  from  "a  Beckett  the  Beak,"  who  had  gone 
before,  to  Sir  Francis  Burnand,  happily  still  with  us,  at 
whose  first  dinner  at  the  Round  Table  **the  bio- 
grapher of  Jeames"  was  present.  ''Gentlemen,"  said 
the  veteran,  ''allow  the  old  boy  to  present  to  you  the 
new  boy  !"  Tom  Taylor  and  John  Leech  were  friends 
of  his  before  he  joined  the  staff,  but  his  acquaint- 
ance with  the  Mayhew  brothers,  Mark  Lemon,  Shirley 
Brooks,  Richard  Doyle,  Charles  Keene,  Percival  Leigh, 

^  Punch. 


296    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

and  Sir  John  Tenniel,  arose  out  of  his  connection  with 
Punch. 

Thackeray  regarded  as  his  most  important  rival  on 
the  staff  of  Punch  Douglas  Jerrold — witty,  brilliant 
Jerrold,  who  is  little  more  than  a  name  to-day.  On 
receiving  his  early  copy  of  Punchy  he  would  hastily 
tear  off  the  wrapper  to  see  ''what  young  Douglas  has 
to  say  this  week,"  and  would  read  the  chapter  of  the 
"Caudle  Lectures"  or  ''Miss  Robinson  Crusoe"  or 
whatever  the  contribution  might  be,  before  turning  to 
the  remaining  contents.  They  said  many  sharp  and 
stinging  things  about  one  another  and  to  one  another. 
When  Thackeray  saw  at  the  Earl  of  Carlisle's  a 
presentation  copy  of  one  of  Jerrold's  books,  inscribed, 
"To  the  Right  Hon.  the  Earl  of  Carlisle,  k.g.,  k.c.b., 
etc.,  etc.,  etc.,"  he  remarked,  "Ah,  this  is  the  style 
in  which  your  rigid,  uncompromising  radical  always 
toadies  to  the  great!"  When  it  was  rumoured  that 
Thackeray  was  leaning  towards  the  Church  of  Rome, 
and  someone  remarked,  "Why,  they  are  Romanizing 
old  Thackeray,"  "I  hope,"  said  Jerrold,  "I  hope 
they'll  begin  at  his  nose."  "Good  Lord,"  said  the 
caustic  wit,  hearing  that  the  other  had  stood  sponsor  to 
a  child,  "I  hope  you  didn't  present  the  infant  with 
your  own  mug." 

"I  have  known  Thackeray  for  eighteen  years,  and 
I  don't  know  him  yet,"  Jerrold  complained  one  day  ; 
and,  on  the  other  hand,  when  Thackeray  was  giving 
a  breakfast  party  in  1848  to  M.  de  Noe  ("Cham"), 
though  asking  several  Punch  men,  he  did  not  invite 
Jerrold,  because  if  the  latter  had  come,  he  would  have 
taken  "especial  care  that  his  own  effulgence  should  ob- 


i8s4]  DOUGLAS   JERROLD  297 

scure  all  lesser  lights,  Cham's  included."  ^  Still,  in  spite 
of  these  things,  there  was  some  sort  of  understanding 
between  them.  In  one  of  his  drawings  Thackeray  has 
represented  Jerrold  and  himself  in  a  railway  carriage 
listening,  with  most  amusing  expressions  on  their 
faces,  to  the  other  two  occupants  discussing,  with 
quite  sublime  ignorance,  the  members  of  the  Punch 
staff' — this  does  not  show  ill-feeling.  And  it  was 
clearly  an  act  of  friendship  when  Thackeray  ran  up  to 
town  one  day  from  Leamington,  where  he  was  lectur- 
ing, announcing  on  his  return  to  the  astonished 
George  Hodder,  ''We've  got  the  little  man  in" — and 
then,  noticing  his  bewilderment,  explaining:  "Why, 
Jerrold  ;  we've  elected  him  a  member  of  the  Reform 
Club."  Jerrold's  wit  had  made  him  many  enemies 
and  Thackeray  had  gone  up  to  use  his  influence  to 
secure  his  election.  Again,  Thackeray  rejoiced  when 
he  heard  of  the  increased  popularity  which  Lloyd's 
Newspaper  attained  under  Jerrold's  editorship,  and 
then  characteristically  declared,  "I  am  quite  pleased 
with  myself  at  finding  myself  pleased  at  men  getting 
on  in  the  world."  At  Jerrold's  death,  too,  he  co- 
operated with  Dickens  to  raise  a  fund  for  the  widow 
and  children,  contributing  for  his  share  the  lecture  on 
"Weekday  Preachers,"  in  which  he  made  special  and 
appreciative  reference  to  Jerrold  and  his  writings.  This 
lecture  was  delivered  on  July  22,  1857,  the  day  after 
the  declaration  of  the  poll  of  the  Oxford  election  in 
which  Thackeray  was  defeated,  and  the  audience,  on 
the  alert  for  some  allusion  to  that  event,  was  not  dis- 

^  Henry  Vizetelly :    Glances  Back   Through  Seventy    Years,   Vol.    I, 
p.  286.  -  Authors'  Miseries. 


298    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

appointed,  for  the  opening  words  of  the  discourse, 
delivered  with  comical  solemnity,  were,  "Walking 
yesterday  in  the  High  Street  of  a  certain  ancient 
city  ..."  '"'So  began  the  lecturer,"  says  the  Times, 
in  its  account  of  the  lecture,  *'and  was  interrupted  by 
a  storm  of  laughter  that  deferred  for  some  moments 
the  completion  of  the  sentence." 

Before  leaving  the  subject  of  Thackeray's  connection 
with  Punch,  something  must  be  said  of  his  ballads,  the 
majority  of  which  appeared  in  the  pages  of  that  paper. 
It  has  been  remarked  that  he  was  always  rhyming  in 
private  life,  and  he  was  devoted  to  the  exercise.  The 
best  papers  of  the  little  brochure,  "  The  Second  Funeral 
of  Napoleon,"  are  undoubtedly  those  given  over  to 
'*  The  Chronicle  of  the  Drum "  ;  but  as  his  literary 
career  progressed  poetry  took  its  place  in  his  life  as  a 
relaxation,  for  the  writing  of  verses  was  with  him  a 
labour  of  love.  Yet  though  as  a  rule  he  wrote  with 
ease,  he  was  a  severe  critic  of  his  work,  and  after 
publication  would  sometimes  entirely  revise  the  poem. 
There  are  two  distinct  versions  of  "The  King  of 
Brentford  "  ;  and  no  less  than  three  times  he  materially 
altered  "Lucy's  Birthday.** 

Thackeray  wrote  in  all  about  one  hundred  poems. 
A  fifth  of  this  number  were  based  upon  political  sub- 
jects, and  of  these  there  is  little  to  say,  save  that  most 
of  them  were  composed  in  haste,  often  with  the  printer's 
devil  at  the  door.  Their  merit  consists  in  a  certain 
humour,  but  their  interest  was  for  the  day :  they 
amused  the  generation  for  which  they  were  written, 
and   so   achieved   their   object.     Clever   they   are   un- 


i8s4]  "BOW   STREET   BALLADS"  299 

doubtedly,  but  few  of  them  bear  the  hall-mark  of  the 
author's  individuality  ;  and,  in  all  probability,  the  sub- 
jects were  selected,  or  at  least  suggested,  by  the  editor 
of  Punch. 

The  same  defects,  though  in  a  lesser  degree,  are 
noticeable  in  ''The  Bow  Street  Ballads."  They  also 
convey  in  the  reading  the  impression  that  they  were 
written  to  order  ;  and  not  all  the  fun  of  Policeman  X  54's 
queer  spelling  and  phrasing  makes  them  quite  ac- 
ceptable, although  here  and  there  the  personality  of 
Thackeray  emerges  from  the  motley.  Notably  is  this 
the  case  in  "Jacob  Omnium's  Hoss,"  where  he  gives 
rein  to  his  indignation  against  "  Pallis  Court,"  with  its 
monstrous  scale  of  costs  : — 

Come  down  from  that  tribewen 

Thou  Shameless  and  Unjust ; 
Thou  Swindle,  picking  pockets  in 

The  name  of  Truth  august  ; 
Come  down,  thou  hoary  Blasphemy, 

For  die  thou  shalt  and  must. 

And  go  it,  Jacob  Homnium, 

And  ply  your  iron  pen. 
And  rise  up  Sir  John  Jervis, 

And  shut  me  up  that  den  ; 
That  sty  for  fattening  lawyers  in 

On  the  bones  of  honest  men. 

The  "Lyra  Hibernica"  are  better.  Carlyle  said 
these  Irish  ballads  were  the  best  things  Thackeray  ever 
wrote,  and  he  would  quote  them  and  laugh  heartily  at 
them.  The  fun  is  more  spontaneous,  the  humour  of  a 
higher  class  ;  the  quaint  rhymes  amuse,  and  the  swing 
of  the  verses  delight.     It  is  not  worth  while,  however, 


If 


300    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

to  argue  the  question  of  the  accuracy  of  Thackeray's 
attempt  to  present  phonetically  the  Irishman's  pronun- 
ciation of  the  English  language.  The  catalogue  of  the 
exhibits  of  the  Great  Exhibition  is  delightful,  and  the 
apparent  ease  of  the  versification  is  not  excelled  even 
in  the  wonderful  "  White  Squall." 

There's  holy  saints 

And  window  paints 
By  Maydiayval  Pugin  ; 

Alhamborough  Jones 

Did  paint  the  tones 
Of  yellow  and  gambouge  in. 


There's  Statue  bright 
Of  marble  white, 

Of  silver  and  of  copper  ; 
And  some  in  zinc, 
And  some,  I  think, 

That  isn't  over  proper. 


For  them  genteels 

Who  ride  on  wheels, 
There's  plenty  to  indulge  'em  ; 

There's  Droskys  snug 

From  Paytersbug 
And  vayhicles  from  Bulgium. 

There's  Cabs  on  Stands 

And  Shandthry-danns  ; 
There's  Waggons  from  New  York  here  ; 

There's  Lapland  sleighs 

Have  crossed  the  seas. 
And  Jaunting  Cyars  from  Cork  here. 


i8s4]  "A    SIXPENNY   TALENT"  301 

Thackeray  never  attempted  the  *'  big  bow-wow  "  kind 
of  poetry.  From  the  first  he  recognised  his  limitations: 
and  to  the  end  was  content  to  be  bound  by  them.  He 
might  have  said  with  Locker-Lampson,  "My  aim  is 
humble.  I  used  the  ordinary  metres  and  rhymes,  the 
simplest  language  and  ideas,  I  hope  flavoured  with 
individuality.  I  strove  not  to  be  obscure,  not  to  be  flat, 
above  all,  not  to  be  tedious."  As,  indeed,  Thackeray 
said  to  the  author  of  the  delightful  "London  Lyrics"  : 
"  I  have  a  sixpenny  talent  (or  gift)  and  so  have  you  ; 
ours  is  small  beer,  but,  you  see,  it  is  the  right  tap.  "^ 
It  is  worthy  of  remark  how  much  in  common  the  verses 
of  these  men  had.  The  poems  of  Locker-Lampson — 
that  author  thought  Thackeray  almost  as  humorous  as 
Swift,  and  sometimes  almost  as  tender  as  Cowper — 
often  suggest  those  of  the  more  famous  writer.  The 
dainty  "St.  James's  Street"  recalls  "The  Ballad  of 
Bouillabaisse,"  as  "Gertrude's  Necklace"  conjures  up 
memory  of  "Lucy's  Birthday."  Both  were  artists  to 
the  finger-tips,  both  had  a  keen  appreciation  of  humour; 
but  Thackeray,  though  he  could  be  dainty,  if  usually 
less  elegant,  was  rather  more  virile. 

Thackeray  was  strongly  imbued  with  the  sense 
of  parody.  He  wrote  "  The  Willow  Tree,"  and,  seeing 
the  opportunity,  burlesqued  it  forthwith.  "Larry 
O'Toole"  from  "Phil  Fogarty "  could  easily  be  mis- 
taken for  one  of  the  spirited  songs  with  which  Lever 
adorned  his  brilliant  but  more  or  less  unreal  stories  of 
Ireland.  Again,  the  songs  of  the  forties  and  fifties 
were  no  more  sensible  than  the  majority  of  similar 
compositions  to-day,  and  they  offered  themselves  as  a 

'  My  Confidences^  p.  300. 


302    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

good  butt  for  ridicule.  Thackeray  started  a  series  of 
parodies  with  the  Mayfair  and  Oriental  Love  Songs  ; 
but  when  the  turn  came  of  the  Domestic  Song,  the 
man's  sentiment  overcame  his  intention.  Though  pre- 
faced by  a  burlesque  prose  introduction — omitted  in 
most  reprints — there  is  little  or  nothing  of  parody  in 
the  verse.  Humour  there  is  in  plenty,  but  it  is  that 
tender  humour  that  is  not  far  away  from  tears  ;  there  is 
loving  kindness  in  every  line  ;  and  the  picture  of  the 
lonely  bachelor  thinking  of  the  fair  young  girl  whose 
presence  had  for  a  moment  relieved  the  gloom  of  the 
dull  chambers  does  not  create  more  mirth  than  is  to  be 
found  in  a  sad  smile. 

It  was  but  a  moment  she  sat  in  this  place, 

She'd  a  scarf  on  her  neck,  and  a  smile  on  her  face  ! 

A  smile  on  her  face,  and  a  rose  in  her  hair, 

And  she  sat  there,  and  bloomed  in  my  cane-bottomed  chair. 

And  so  I  have  valued  my  chair  ever  since. 

Like  the  shrine  of  a  saint,  or  the  throne  of  a  prince  ; 

Sweet  Fanny,  my  patroness,  sweet,  I  declare 

The  queen  of  my  heart  and  my  cane-bottomed  chair. 

When  the  candles  burn  low,  and  the  company's  gone, 
In  the  silence  of  night  as  I  sit  here  alone — 
I  sit  here  alone,  but  we  yet  are  a  pair — 
My  Fanny  I  see  in  my  cane-bottomed  chair. 

She  comes  from  the  past  and  revisits  my  room  ; 
She  looks  as  she  then  did,  all  beauty  and  bloom. 
So  smiling  and  tender,  so  fresh  and  so  fair. 
And  yonder  she  sits  in  my  cane-bottomed  chair. 

In  the  same  vein  of  tenderness  is  the  even  better- 
known    "  Ballad   of   Bouillabaisse,"   written    in    Paris 


i8S4]    "THE  CHRONICLE  OF  THE  DRUM"     303 

after  a  visit  to  the  restaurant  where  the  author  and  his 
wife  and  friends  had  been  frequent  visitors  ;  and  the 
exquisite  *'  Mahogany  Tree,"  one  of  the  author's  favour- 
ites, which  many  a  time  he  sang. 

The  most  ambitious,  as  well  as  the  longest,  of  Thack- 
eray's poems  was  *'  The  Great  Cossack  Epic  of  Deme- 
trius Rigmarolovicz,"  founded,  so  the  prefatory  note 
informs  us,  on  the  legend  of  St.  Sophia,  whose  statue 
is  said  to  have  walked  of  its  own  accord  up  the  river 
Dnieper  to  take  its  station  in  the  Church  of  Kiew.  It 
is  good  fooling,  and  amusing  enough,  but  it  does  not 
bear  in  any  marked  degree  the  imprint  of  Thackeray's 
individuality.  It  was  followed  by  "The  Chronicle  of 
the  Drum,"  which  is  on  quite  a  different  plane,  and  is 
as  good  as  anything  Thackeray  ever  wrote  in  verse.  It 
is  the  narrative  of  a  French  drummer,  whose  ancestors 
for  the  last  four  generations  had  rattled  the  sticks  from 
the  days  of  Henri  of  Navarre.     In  Germany,  Flanders, 

and  Holland 

.   .   .  my  grandsire  was  ever  victorious, 
My  grandsire  and  Marshal  Turenne  ; 

his  father  was  at  Fontenoy  and  lost  his  life  at  Quebec  ; 
while  the  story-teller  was  present  at  Yorktown,  helped 
to  drum  down  the  Bastille,  and  fought  for  the  Republic 
in  the  days  of  the  Terror. 

We  had  taken  the  head  of  King  Capet, 

We  called  for  the  blood  of  his  wife  ; 
Undaunted  she  came  to  the  scaffold, 

And  bared  her  fair  neck  to  the  knife. 
As  she  felt  the  foul  fingers  that  touched  her, 

She  shrank  but  she  deigned  not  to  speak, 
She  looked  with  a  royal  disdain, 

And  died  with  a  blush  in  her  cheek  ! 


304    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1847- 

He  was  in  the  Napoleonic  army  and  a  stout  partisan  of 
the  Emperor.  He  was  at  Marengo,  Jena,  and  Auster- 
litz  ;  the  Hundred  Days  found  him  at  his  post ;  and 
he  was  present  at  Waterloo. 

A  curse  on  those  British  assassins, 

Who  ordered  the  slaughter  of  Ney  ; 
A  curse  on  Sir  Hudson  who  tortured 

The  life  of  our  hero  away. 
A  curse  on  all  Russians — I  hate  them — 

On  all  Prussians  and  Austrian  fry  ; 
And,  O  !  but  I  pray  we  may  meet  them. 

And  fight  them  again  ere  I  die. 

"  The  Chronicle  of  the  Drum  "  presents  a  fine  picture 
of  the  wild  enthusiasm  of  the  French  veterans  for  their 
Corsican  leader  and  of  the  deep-seated  hatred  of 

the  red-coated  English, 

Whose  bayonets  helped  our  undoing. 

The  drummer  cares  nothing  for  the  cause,  but  every- 
thing for  the  battle  ;  fighting  was  in  his  blood,  for  he 
loved  his  country  and  believed  in  his  General  as  in  his 
God  ;  yet  even  when  fierce  excitement  had  the  better  of 
him,  he  could  spare  a  thought  for  the  poor  woman 
waiting  anxiously  for  news  of  her  husband,  who  had 
marched  with  the  army  against  Wolfe. 

I  think  I  can  see  my  poor  mammy 

With  me  in  her  hand  as  she  waits. 
And  our  regiment,  slowly  retreating, 

Pours  back  through  the  citadel  gates. 
Dear  mammy  !  she  looks  in  their  faces, 

And  asks  if  her  husband  has  come? 
— He  is  lying  all  cold  on  the  glacis, 

And  will  never  more  beat  on  the  drum. 


1854]  BALLADS  305 

This  splendid  martial  poem  contains  much  satirical 
humour  and  just  the  amount  of  underlying  pathos  that 
adds  to  the  beauty  ;  while  it  has  many  of  the  qualities 
that  later  were  to  combine  in  the  making  of  the  wonder- 
ful, ironical  **  Barry  Lyndon." 

*'  It  is  easy  enough  to  knock  off  that  nonsense  about 
Policeman  X,"  Thackeray  said  ;  "  but  to  write  a  good 
occasional  verse  is  a  rare  intellectual  feat."  Yet  this, 
too,  he  accomplished.  He  possessed  the  wit  and  the 
fancy,  the  humour  and  tenderness,  the  refinement, 
without  all  of  which  qualities  "  the  real  thing"  cannot 
be  produced.  Nor  was  the  lyrical  strain  absent  from 
his  composition.  His  verse  is  easy  and  possesses  the 
essential  merit  of  apparent  spontaneity.  He  was  almost 
invariably  humorous  ;  yet  there  was  always  something 
more  than  mere  fun.  Frequently  he  was  satirical, 
occasionally  he  was  indignant ;  sometimes,  as  in 
**The  End  of  the  Play"  and  "Vanitas  Vanitatum," 
he  was  didactic  ;  usually  he  was  tender  and  pathetic. 
He  could  be  gay  ;  he  could  sprinkle  his  verses  with 
playful  or  ironic  humour  ;  and  upon  all  his  best  work 
his  personality  is  impressed.  Of  the  touch  of  originality 
he  was  proud:  "Tom  Taylor  wrote  those  verses  in 
Punch,''''  he  replied  to  a  question  of  Dr.  John  Brown. 
**  When  I  strike  the  lyre  I  think  it's  to  a  more  original 
tune  than  that;  it's  not  the  best  music,  but  it's  my  own." 
Most  of  his  ballads  are  good  ;  all  are  readable,  and 
many  are  possessed  of  distinction.  As  has  been 
said,  his  rhymes  are  often  appalling,  and  his  metre  is  not 
always  perfect ;  but  his  language  was  as  simple  and 
direct  as  in  his  prose  writings.  If  he  was  not  under- 
rating his  talent  when  he  spoke  of  it  as  small  beer,  he 
I— J^ 


3o6    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1850 

certainly  was  not  guilty  of  an  error  of  judgment 
when  he  declared  it  was  the  right  tap.  No  "Lyra 
Elegantiarum "  is  complete  without  the  insertion  of 
"The  Mahogany  Tree",  "The  Ballad  of  Bouilla- 
baisse," and  "  Peg  of  Limavaddy  "  ;  and  no  anthology 
of  light  verse  may  omit  "  The  Chronicle  of  the  Drum." 


CHAPTER   XVI 

"PENDENNIS"  (1849-1850) 

Thackeray  living-  at  No.  88,  St.  James's  Street — takes  a  house,  No.  13 
(now  16),  Young  Street,  Kensington — and  has  his  daughters  brought 
to  him  there — the  greater  part  of  "Vanity  Fair"  written  in  that 
house — his  acquaintance  with  Charlotte  Bronte — her  appreciation  of 
him — a  dismal  dinner  party — "  The  Last  Sketch" — Thackeray  dissatis- 
fied with  his  financial  prospects  — endeavours  to  obtain  the  secretary- 
ship of  the  Post  Office — and,  failing,  tries  to  get  a  magistracy — 
Horace  Smith — the  Misses  Smith  and  "  Pendennis  " — the  publication 
of  "Pendennis"  begun  November  1848 — interrupted  by  a  serious 
illness — some  opinions  of  the  earlier  parts  of  the  novel — Thackeray's 
recovery — "  Pendennis"  autobiographical  in  parts — some  prototypes 
of  the  characters  in  "Vanity  Fair" — of  Sir  Pitt  Crawley,  Lord 
Steyne,  and  Becky  Sharp — some  prototypes  of  the  characters  in 
"Pendennis" — of  Warrington,  Foker,  and  Shandon — "The  Dignity 
of  Literature  " — Thackeray  on  the  responsibility  of  an  author — the 
literary  man's  point  of  honour. 

THACKERAY  had  given  up  his  room  in 
Jermyn  Street  when  he  went  to  Cairo,  and 
on  his  return  had  rented  chambers  at  No.  88, 
St.  James's  Street,  the  house  at  the  south- 
west corner  of  that  street,  with  a  frontage  in  Cleveland 
Row,  and  facing  that  portion  of  the  palace  which  is 
between  the  Colour  Court  and  the  Ambassador's 
Court.  It  was  next  door  to  the  site  upon  which  had 
stood  the  old  coffee-house,  where  the  fashionable  wits 
of  the  eighteenth  century  foregathered,  and  Swift, 
not  too  far  away  from  Esther  Vanhomrigh  in  Suffolk 

307 


3o8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

Street,  wrote  so  frequently  to  sweet  Stella.  "  He 
never  sends  away  a  letter  to  her  but  he  begins  a  new 
one  the  same  day.  He  can't  bear  to  let  go  her  little 
hand  as  it  were."^  Here  Thackeray  remained  for  two 
years,  until  the  summer  of  1846,  when  he  made  for 
himself  and  his  daughters  a  home  at  No.  13  (now  16), 
Young  Street,  Kensington.  He  was  delighted  with 
the  house,  and  thought  its  two  semi-tower-like  embra- 
sures gave  it  the  air  of  a  feudal  castle.  "I'll  have 
a  flagstaff  put  over  the  coping  of  the  wall,"  he  said, 
laughing,  ''and  I'll  hoist  a  standard  when  I'm  at 
home."  His  mother  brought  the  children  from  Paris 
in  the  late  autumn  of  1846;  and  when  things  were 
settled  she  returned  to  her  husband,  and  her  place  was 
taken  by  her  mother,  who  remained  until  her  death 
two  years  later.  Thenceforth  Thackeray  had  his 
"little  girls"  constantly  with  him;  and  whenever  he 
could  snatch  an  hour  or  an  afternoon,  they  went  for 
those  little  outings  which  he  enjoyed  as  much  as  they. 
He  was  never  again  separated  from  them  for  any 
length  of  time  except  when  he  went  to  America  ;  and 
from  this  time  forth,  until  he  was  taken  from  them,  so 
far  as  possible  they  shared  the  pleasures  of  his  life. 

It  was  when  passing  by  the  Young  Street  house  in 
later  days  with  Fields,  the  American  publisher,  that 
Thackeray  exclaimed,  with  mock  gravity:  "Down  on 
your  knees,  you  rogue,  for  here  '  Vanity  Fair '  was 
penned  ;  and  I  will  go  down  with  you,  for  I  have  a 
high  opinion  of  that  little  production  myself."  The 
house,  too,  has  an  association  with  another  great 
novelist,   Charlotte   Bronte.     Most    interesting   is    the 

'  English  Humourists — Swift. 


WILLIAM    MAKEPEACE   THACKERAY 

From  an  unpublished  zvater-coloiir  draiving  hy  II '.  Dnnuuiciid,  /Sjo 

Reproduced l<y  ptriiiission  of  Major  W'illiavi  //.  Lambert 


1850]  CHARLOTTE   BRONTE  309 

story  of  the  acquaintance  between  these  notabiHties. 
It  has  already  been  mentioned  that  **Currer  Bell" 
dedicated  the  second  edition  of  "Jane  Eyre"  to 
Thackeray,  and  Thackeray  later  acknowledged  the 
compliment,  before  even  he  knew  her  name  or  sex,  by 
sending  her  a  copy  of  ''Vanity  Fair"  inscribed  with 
his  "grateful  regards."  Charlotte  Bronte  had  been 
much  disturbed  by  the  widespread  rumour  that  she 
had  drawn  Thackeray  and  his  wife  as  Mr.  and  Mrs. 
Rochester,  though  she  was  indifferent  to  those  other 
lying  reports  that  said  she  had  been  a  governess  in  his 
family  and  subsequently  his  mistress  ;  and  when  she 
came  to  London  in  December  1849,  she  eagerly 
accepted  the  offer  of  George  Smith  to  introduce 
Thackeray  to  her. 

When  they  did  meet,  she  was  much  astonished.  As 
the  dedication  to  the  second  edition  of  "Jane  Eyre" 
shows,  she  had  expected  to  find  a  fervent  prophet,  and 
Thackeray  was  simply  a  quiet,  well-bred  gentleman, 
with  nothing  in  appearance  to  distinguish  him  from 
hosts  of  other  men.  A  delightful  story  has  been 
related  of  their  meeting.  It  is  worthy  of  being  re- 
peated, for,  though  probably  apocryphal,  it  is  amus- 
ingly true  of  the  lady's  attitude  to  her  hero.  "  Behold, 
a  lion  Cometh  up  out  of  the  North  ! "  she  quoted  under 
her  breath,  as  Thackeray  entered  the  drawing-room. 
Thackeray,  being  informed  of  this,  remarked:  "Oh, 
Lord  !  and  I'm  nothing  but  a  poor  devil  of  an  English- 
man, ravenous  for  my  dinner."  At  dinner.  Miss 
Bronte  was  placed  opposite  him.  "And,"  said 
Thackeray,  "  I  had  the  miserable  humiliation  of  seeing 
her  ideal  of  me  disappearing,  as  everything  went  into 


3IO  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 
my  mouth,  and  nothing  came  out  of  it,  until,  at  last, 
as  I  took  my  fifth  potato,  she  leaned  across,  with 
clasped  hands  and  tearful  eyes,  and  breathed  implor- 
ingly, '  Oh,  Mr.  Thackeray  !     Don't ! '  " 

Thackeray  was  an  enigma  to  Charlotte  Bronte  ;  she 
could  not  understand  him  ;  she  was  never  certain 
whether  he  was  speaking  in  jest  or  in  earnest ;  but  she 
was  determined  to  take  him  seriously.  "All  you  say 
of  Mr.  Thackeray  is  most  graphic  and  characteristic," 
she  wrote  to  Ellen  Nussey,  on  December  19.  "He 
stirs  in  me  both  sorrow  and  anger.  Why  should  he 
lead  so  harassing  a  life?  Why  should  his  mocking 
tongue  so  perversely  deny  the  better  feelings  of  his 
better  moods?  .  .  .  Mr.  Thackeray  is  a  man  of  very 
quiet,  simple  demeanour  ;  he  is,  however,  looked  up 
to  with  some  awe  and  even  distrust.  .  .  .  Thackeray  is 
a  Titan  of  mind.  His  presence  and  powers  impress 
one  deeply  in  an  intellectual  sense  ;  I  do  not  know  him 
or  see  him  as  a  man.  All  the  others  are  subordinate. 
...  I  felt  sufficiently  at  my  ease  with  all  but 
Thackeray  ;  with  him,  I  was  fearfully  stupid."^ 

Charlotte  Bronte  came  again  to  London  in  the 
following  June,  and  Thackeray  called  on  her  at  George 
Smith's  house,  and  the  host,  who  was  alone  with  them, 
afterwards  described  the  interview  as  "a  queer  scene." 
"  I  suppose  it  was,"  the  lady  wrote  to  Ellen  Nussey. 
"The  giant  sat  before  me:  I  was  moved  to  speak 
of  some  of  his  shortcomings  (literary,  of  course) ;  one 
by  one  the  faults  came  into  my  head,  and  one  by  one 
I  brought  them  out,  and  sought  some  explanation  or 
defence.     He   did  defend  himself,  like  a  great   Turk 

^  Clement  Shorter  :  The  Brotites. 


l,M)\\      10),     \'nL\i.    .-^Il.l.l.l,     lvl,.\.-.i; 
il'/it-rc  Tkackfray  lived,  /S^O-lSjj 


i8so]  AN    UNSUCCESSFUL   PARTY  311 

and  heathen  ;  that  is  to  say,  the  excuses  were  often 
worse  than  the  crime  itself.  The  matter  ended  in 
decent  amity  ;  if  all  be  well  I  am  to  dine  at  his  house 
this  evening  (June  12)."^  The  dinner,  it  must  be  con- 
fessed, was  not  a  success.  The  party  included  Mrs. 
Crowe,  the  Brookfields,  the  Carlyles,  Mrs.  Procter  and 
her  daughter,  and  Mrs.  Elliot  and  Miss  Perry,  and 
it  should  have  been  a  bright  gathering.  Instead  it 
was  a  gloomy  and  silent  evening,  conversation  lan- 
guished, the  guest  in  whose  honour  all  were  assembled 
said  nothing,  and  Thackeray,  too  much  depressed  by 
the  failure  of  the  entertainment,  but  little.  Mrs. 
Brookfield  made  an  effort.  "Do  you  like  London, 
Miss  Bronte?"  she  asked;  then,  after  a  pause,  the  other 
said  gravely,  ''Yes — no."  Charlotte  Bronte  was  the 
first  to  leave,  and  so  soon  as  she  had  gone  Thackeray 
slipped  out  of  the  drawing-room,  and  his  eldest 
daughter  was  surprised  to  see  him  open  the  front  door 
with  his  hat  on.  "He  put  his  fingers  to  his  lips, 
w^alked  out  into  the  darkness,  and  shut  the  door  quietly 
behind  him.  When  I  went  back  to  the  drawing-room 
again,  the  ladies  asked  me  where  he  was.  I  vaguely 
answered  that  I  thought  he  was  coming  back,"  Lady 
Ritchie  has  written.  "Long  years  afterwards,  Mrs. 
Procter,  with  a  good  deal  of  humour,  described  the 
situation — the  ladies,  who  had  all  come  expecting  so 
much  delightful  conversation,  and  the  gloom  and  con- 
straint, and  how  finally,  overwhelmed  by  the  situation, 
my  father  had  quietly  left  the  room,  left  the  house,  and 
gone  off  to  his  club.  The  ladies  waited,  wondered, 
and  finally  departed  also  ;  and  as  we  were  going  up  to 
1  Ibid.,  Vol.  II,  p.  143. 


312    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

bed  with  our  candles,  after   everybody   was   gone,    I 

remember    two    pretty    Miss    L 's,    in    shiny    silk 

dresses,    arriving   full    of  expectation.    .    .    .   We   still 
said    we    thought    our    father    would    soon    be    back, 

but    the    Miss    L 's    declined    to    wait    upon    the 

chance,   laughed,   and   drove   away   again  almost   im- 
mediately."^ 

Once  more  Charlotte  Bronte  and  Thackeray  met,  and 
again  a  letter  of  the  lady  tells  the  tale.  ''  I  came  here 
(London)  on  Wednesday,  being  summoned  a  day 
sooner  than  I  expected,  in  order  to  be  in  time  for 
Thackeray's  second  lecture,  which  was  delivered  on 
Thursday  afternoon.  This,  as  you  may  suppose,  was 
a  great  treat,  and  I  was  glad  not  to  miss  it,"  she  wrote 
to  Ellen  Nussey,  on  June  2,  185 1.  "As  our  party  left 
the  (lecture)  Hall,  he  (Thackeray)  stood  at  the  entrance; 
he  saw  and  knew  me,  and  lifted  his  hat ;  he  offered  his 
hand  in  passing,  and  uttered  the  words,  '  Qit'eii  dttes- 
vous?^ — a  question  eminently  characteristic  and  re- 
minding me,  even  in  this  his  moment  of  triumph, 
of  that  inquisitive  restlessness,  that  absence  of  what 
I  considered  desirable  self-control,  which  were  among 
his  faults.  He  should  not  have  cared  just  then  to  ask 
what  I  thought,  or  what  anybody  thought ;  but  he  did 
care,  and  he  was  too  natural  to  conceal,  too  impulsive 
to  repress,  his  wish.  Well !  if  I  blamed  his  over- 
eagerness,  I  liked  his  naivete.  I  would  have  praised 
him  ;  I  had  plenty  of  praise  in  my  heart ;  but,  alas  ! 
no  words  on  my  lips.  Who  has  words  at  the  right 
moment?  I  stammered  lame  expressions;  but  was 
truly  glad  when  some  other  people,  coming  up  with 

1  Chapter  from  Some  Memoirs,  p.  63. 


iSso]  "THE   LAST   SKETCH"  313 

profuse    congratulations,    covered    my    deficiency    by 
their  redundancy."^ 

Indeed,  though  intensely  appreciative,  Charlotte 
Bronte  proved  so  severe  a  critic,  both  of  himself 
and  his  works,  that  Thackeray  was  not  quite  pleased 
with  the  various  letters  (printed  in  Mrs.  Gaskell's 
"Life")  in  which  she  expressed  her  opinions,  and 
he  said  so  much  in  his  ''Last  Sketch,"  prefixed  to 
"Emma,"  when,  under  his  editorship,  that  fragment 
appeared  in  the  Cornhill  Magazine. 

I  can  only  say  of  this  lady,  vidi  tantiim.  I  saw 
her  first  just  as  I  rose  out  of  an  illness  from  which 
I  had  never  thought  to  recover.  I  remember  the 
trembling  little  frame,  the  little  hand,  the  great 
honest  eyes.  An  impetuous  honesty  seemed  to  me 
to  characterise  the  woman.  Twice,  I  recollect,  she 
took  me  to  task  for  what  she  held  to  be  errors  in 
doctrine.  Once  about  Fielding  we  had  a  disputation. 
She  spoke  her  mind  out.  She  jumped  to  conclusions 
(I  have  smiled  at  one  or  two  passages  in  the  "  Bio- 
graphy "  in  which  my  own  disposition  or  behaviour 
form  the  subject  of  talk).  She  formed  conclusions 
that  might  be  wrong,  and  built  up  whole  theories  of 
character  upon  them.  New  to  the  London  world,  she 
entered  it  with  an  independent  indomitable  spirit 
of  her  own  ;  and  judged  of  contemporaries,  and 
especially  spied  out  arrogance  or  affectation,  with 
extraordinary  keenness  of  vision.  She  was  angry 
with  her  favourites  if  their  conduct  or  conversation 
fell  below  her  ideal.  Often  she  seemed  to  be  judging 
the  London  folks  prematurely ;  but  perhaps  the 
city  is  rather  angry  at  being  judged.  It  fancied 
an  austere  little  Joan  of  Arc  marching  in  upon  us, 
and  rebutting  our  easy  lives,  our  easy  morals. 
She  gave  me  the  impression  of  being  a  very  pure 
and  lofty,  and  high-minded  person.      A   great  and 

*  Clement  Shorter:  The  Brontes,  Vol.  II,  p.  214. 


314    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

holy  reverence  of  right  and  truth  seemed  to  be 
with  her  always.  Such,  in  our  brief  interview,  she 
appeared  to  me. 

Though  Thackeray  was  flourishing,  he  was  not 
satisfied  with  his  prospects,  for  he  feared  his  popularity 
might  diminish.  He  was  well  aware  that  the  earnings 
of  a  man  of  letters  are  precarious  and  he  was  anxious 
to  make  provision  for  his  mother  and  stepfather,  for  his 
children,  and  for  himself,  should  he,  in  spite  of  the 
physicians'  opinion,  live  to  be  an  old  man.  He  had 
himself  called  to  the  bar  on  May  26,  1848,  of  course 
not  with  any  intention  to  practise,  but  so  as  to  be  able 
to  accept,  if  fate  would  only  give  him  a  chance,  one  of 
the  many  appointments  for  which  only  a  barrister  is 
eligible.  He  heard  towards  the  end  of  1848  of  a  post 
that  he  thought  would  suit  him. 

But  now  comes  the  real  and  important  part  of  this 
note  [he  wrote  to  Lady  Blessington].  There  will  be  a 
place  vacant  in  the  Post  Office  soon^  that  of  Assistant 
Secretary,  at  present  held  by  Mr.  James  Campbell. 
What  a  place  for  a  man  of  letters  !  I  think  if  Lord 
Clanricarde  would  give  it  to  me  I  would  satisfy  my 
employers,  and  that  my  profession  would  be  pleased 
by  hearing  of  the  employment  of  one  of  us.  I 
wonder  might  I  write  to  him,  or  is  there  any  kind 
of  person  who  would  advocate  my  cause? 

Lady  Blessington  interested  herself  on  his  behalf, 
but  her  efforts  were  in  vain.  *' Another  man  has  got 
it  and  deserves  it  too,"  Thackeray  informed  her,  but 
he  did  not  abandon  hope  of  receiving  an  appointment 
under  Government.  In  the  next  year  he  made  another 
attempt   to   obtain    a    vacant    magistracy,    but  again, 


I 


i8so]  "PENDENNIS"  315 

though  this  time  backed  by  the  influence  of  Monckton 
Milnes,  he  was  unsuccessful. 

You  are  a  good  and  lovable  adviser  and  M.P., 
but  I  cannot  get  the  Magistrate's  place,  not  being 
eligible  [he  wrote  to  his  friend].  I  was  only  called  to 
the  Bar  last  year,  and  they  require  barristers  of  seven 
years'  standing.  Time  will  qualify  me,  however, 
and  I  hope  to  be  able  to  last  six  years  in  the  literary 
world  ;  for  though  I  shall  write,  I  daresay,  very 
badly,  yet  the  public  won't  find  it  out  for  some  time, 
and  I  shall  live  on  my  past  reputation.  It  is  a  pity 
to  be  sure.  If  I  could  get  a  place  and  rest,  I  think  I 
could  do  something  better  than  I  have  done,  and 
leave  a  good  and  lasting  book  behind  me  ;  but  Fate 
is  overruling.  I  have  to  thank  L.  for  his  kind  letter, 
and  to  beg  him  to  remember  me  if  an  opportunity 
occurs  of  serving  me.  I  wonder  whether  Lord 
Palmerston  could?  But  I  would  rather  be  in  London. 
Thank  you  for  thinking  of  me,  and  believe  me,  I  am 
grateful.^ 

Having  only  his  pen  to  rely  on,  Thackeray,  who 
had  taken  his  daughters  for  a  holiday  abroad,  now 
went  with  them  to  Brighton,  where  he  proposed  to 
begin  '*  Pendennis,"  the  publication  of  which  was  to 
begin  in  a  month.  He  numbered  among  his  friends 
resident  there  Horace,  part-author  of  "Rejected  Ad- 
dresses," 

That  good,  severe  old  man,  who  went  out  of  the 
world  in  charity  with  all  in  it,  and  having  shown 
through  his  life,  as  far  as  I  know  it,  quite  a  delight- 
ful love  of  God's  works  and  creatures  ;  a  true, 
loyal,  Christian  man.^ 

^  Wemyss  Reid  :  Life  of  Lord  Houghton,  Vol.  I,  p.  247. 
'  A.  H.  Beavan  :  fames  and  Horace  Smith,  p.  305. 


3i6    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

To  Smith's  house  in  Cavendish  Place  he  went  soon 
after  his  arrival  at  Brighton,  and  confessed  to  the 
Misses  Smith  that  he  was  in  despair,  he  had  to  begin 
a  new  novel  without  delay,  and  had  not  an  idea  ;  so 
then  and  there  they  told  him  a  story  of  Brighton  life. 
In  return  for  this  favour,  he  christened  the  heroine 
Laura,  after  his  hostesses'  married  sister,  Mrs.  Round, 
who,  when  the  story  was  finished,  declared,  indig- 
nantly, "  I'll  never  speak  to  you  again,  Mr.  Thackeray. 
You  know  I  always  meant  to  marry  Bluebeard  " — Lady 
Rockminster's  name  for  George  Warrington. 

The  first  number  of  "  Pendennis,"  issued  by  Messrs, 
Bradbury  and  Evans,  appeared  in  November  1848, 
and  the  publication  of  the  story  was  continued  month 
by  month  until  the  following  September,  when  Thack- 
eray was  ill,  so  ill,  indeed,  during  September,  October, 
and  November  that  it  seemed  only  too  probable  that  he 
would  never  rise  from  the  sick-bed.  Dr.  Merriman 
attended  him,  and  also  Dr.  Elliotson,  to  whom  "Pen- 
dennis," on  its  publication  in  book-form,  was  dedi- 
cated. It  was  not  until  December  that  Thackeray's 
recovery  was  assured  ;  and  on  the  7th  of  that  month 
Edward  FitzGerald  wrote  to  Frederick  Tennyson  :  "  I 
saw  poor  Thackeray  in  London,  getting  slowly  better 
of  a  bilious  fever  that  had  nearly  killed  him.  .  .  . 
People  in  general  thought  ''Pendennis"  got  dull  as 
it  got  on  ;  and  I  confess  I  thought  so  too  :  he  would 
do  well  to  take  the  opportunity  of  his  illness  to  dis- 
continue it  altogether.  He  told  me  last  June  he  himself 
was  tired  of  it,  and  must  not  his  readers  naturally 
tire  too?" 

Fortunately,    Thackeray,    after    being  rescued  from 


i85o]  THACKERAY  ON  "PENDENNIS"  317 
illness,  was  saved  from  his  friends,  and  the  twelfth 
number  of  "Pendennis"  appeared  in  January  of  the 
new  year.  FitzGerald,  re-reading  the  novel  years  later, 
altered  his  opinion.  <<  I  like  'Pendennis'  much,"  he 
then  said;  *'and  Alfred  (Tennyson)  said  he  thought 
it  was  quite  delicious;  *  it  seemed  to  him  so  mature,' 
he  said.  You  can  imagine  Alfred  saying  this  over 
one's  fire,  spreading  his  great  hand  out."  Thackeray, 
who  had  a  habit  of  passing  remarks  on  his  books,  said 
of  this  one  :  *'  I  can't  say  I  think  much  of  '  Pendennis  ' 
— at  least  of  the  execution,  it  certainly  drags  about  the 
middle  ;  but  I  had  an  attack  of  illness  at  the  time  I 
reached  that  part  of  the  book,  and  could  not  make  it 
any  better  than  I  did.  But  how  well-written  it  is  ! " 
Well-written  it  is  certainly,  and  wonderfully  interest- 
ing, for,  like  "Vanity  Fair,"  beginning  quietly,  it 
gathered  force  and  volume  as  it  proceeded. 

"Pendennis,"  as  has  already  been  said,  is  so  auto- 
biographical in  parts  that  most  readers  acquainted 
with  the  social  history  of  the  forties  of  the  last 
century  endeavour  to  trace  the  "  originals,"  and 
the  curiosity  that  suggests  the  enquiry,  though 
it  may  not  be  legitimate,  is  at  least  natural.  It  must 
be  borne  in  mind,  however,  that  Thackeray  never 
wilfully  copied  anybody  ;  he  was,  as  George  Augustus 
Sala  put  it,  "only  gently  and  skilfully  assimilative 
and  combinative  in  his  characters,  which  passed 
through  the  alembic  of  his  study  and  observation." 
In  "Vanity  Fair"  the  author  declared  that  Sir  Pitt 
Crawley  was  the  only  exact  portrait  in  the  book  :  it 
has  lately  been  asserted  that  a  former  Lord  Rolle  sat 
for  the  character  ;  the  prototype  of  "the  richly  dressed 


3i8    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

figure  of  the  Wicked  Nobleman,  on  which  no  expense 
has  been  spared,"  Lord  Steyne,  undoubtedly  was 
suggested  by  the  second  and  third  Marquises  of 
Hertford,  and  the  inimitable  Becky  was  drawn  from 
the  companion  of  a  wealthy  and  selfish  old  lady  who 
lived  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Kensington  Square. 
How  far  Arthur  Pendennis  resembled  Thackeray  has 
already  been  discussed,  but  for  the  statement  that  in 
this  story  more  than  any  other  he  drew  upon  his  ac- 
quaintances there  is  the  author's  authority. 

You  will  find  much  to  remind  you  of  old  talks  and 
faces — of  William  John  O'Connell,  Jack  Sheehan 
and  Andrew  Arcedeckne — in  this  book  [he  wrote  to 
George  Moreland  Crawford,  who  had  nursed  him 
through  the  illness  that  nearly  left  the  story  a 
fragment].  There  is  something  of  you  in  Warring- 
ton, but  he  is  not  fit  to  hold  a  candle  to  you,  for, 
taking  you  all  round,  you  are  the  most  genuine 
fellow  that  ever  strayed  from  a  better  world  into  this. 
You  don't  smoke,  and  he  is  a  confirmed  smoker  of 
tobacco.  Bordeaux  and  port  were  your  favourites 
at  'The  Deanery'  and  'The  Garrick,'  and  War.  is 
always  guzzling  beer.  But  he  has  your  honesty, 
and  like  you  could  not  posture  if  he  tried.  You  had 
a  strong  affinity  for  the  Irish.  May  you  some  day 
find  an  Irish  girl  to  lead  you  to  matrimony.  There's 
no  such  good  wife  as  a  daughter  of  Erin.^ 

"Merry  Andrew"  Arcedeckne,  a  member  of  the 
Garrick  Club,  sat  for  Foker,  and  it  is  probably  this 
portrait  that  was  the  cause  of  the  author's  rejection  at 
the  Travellers'  Club  in  1856.  The  ballot  there  is  by 
the  members  and  not  by  the  committee,  and  the 
majority   gave   the  reason   for   their   action  that  they 

1  Critic  (N.  Y.),  December  26,  1885. 


i85o]  THACKERAY'S   ORIGINALS  319 

were  afraid  of  seeing  themselves  in  some  future  novel. 
It  is  said  that  Arcedeckne  was  often  called  "  Phoca  "  ; 
hence  the  name  by  which  he  is  immortalised  ;  and  that 
he  was  small  in  stature,  eccentric  in  his  mode  of  dress- 
ing, drove  mail-coaches  as  an  amateur,  loved  fighting 
dogs,  game-cocks,  and  the  prize-ring,  and  had  a  large 
estate  in  Norfolk.  Cordy  Jeaffreson  states  that  Foker 
was  no  caricature,  and  that  the  character  was  a  genial 
and  flattering  portrait  of  the  prototype.  Arcedeckne 
resembled  Foker,  however,  in  so  far  that  he,  too,  was 
no  fool.  Thackeray  had  treated  him  badly  by  holding 
him  up  to  ridicule,  but  he  was  too  sensible  to  complain  : 
none  the  less  he  contrived  that  the  laughter  should 
not  all  be  on  one  side.  Arcedeckne  was  that  member  of 
the  Garrick  whose  presence  and  speech.  Dean  Hole 
observed,  ''seemed  to  irritate  Thackeray,  and  who 
found  pleasure  in  exercising  his  power  as  a  gadfly 
on  a  thoroughbred  horse."  One  night  in  the  club 
smoking-room  Thackeray  was  in  the  middle  of  a  story 
when  Arcedeckne  entered  :  Thackeray  saw  him,  hesi- 
tated, stopped  :  whereupon  his  persecutor  with  bland 
smile  and  gracious  manner  encouraged  him  to  continue  ; 
"Proceed,  sweet  warbler,"  he  said,  "thy  story  in- 
terests me."  It  was  Arcedeckne,  too,  who  congratulated 
Thackeray  on  one  of  his  lectures  :  "  Brayvo  !  Thack, 
my  boy  !  Uncommon  good  show.  But  it'll  never  go 
•without  a  planner  !  " 

The  noblemen  of  the  staff  of  the  original  Pall  Mall 
Gazette  in  "Pendennis"  were  Lords  William  and 
Henry  Lennox  and  a  brother  of  the  Duke  of  St. 
Albans,  and  of  the  last  Jack  Sheehan  used  to  say, 
*'  His  name   of    Beauclerk  is   a    misnomer,   for  he  is 


320    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

always  in  a  fog,  and  never  clear  about  anything." 
Many  of  the  "  Fraserians"  sat  for  the  literary  portraits 
in  *'  Pendennis,"  the  ferocious  Bludyer,  stout  old  Tom 
Sergeant,  and  brilliant  Charles  Shandon.  It  has  been 
suggested  that  Jack  Sheehan  may  have  been  the 
original  Shandon,  but  the  character  was  probably 
drawn,  in  part  at  least,  from  Dr.  Maginn.  But 
Maginn  was  a  greater  than  Shandon.  He  may  have 
dictated  the  prospectus  of  some  Pall  Mall  Gazette  from 
the  Fleet  Prison  ;  he  may  have  written — indeed,  he  did 
write — articles  that  are  models  of  virulent  abuse  ;  but 
he  was  a  parodist  of  no  mean  merit,  and  his  Shake- 
spearian essays  and  his  Latin  versions  of  ''Chevy 
Chase  "  and  other  ballads  extorted  praise  even  from  his 
enemies. 

These  and  other  literary  portraits  in  "Pendennis" 
brought  in  their  train  great  annoyance  to  Thackeray, 
for  many  members  of  the  Fourth  Estate  took  umbrage, 
and  declared  that  the  author  had  set  out  to  hold  up  to 
contempt  workers  in  literature  and  journalism.  So 
long  as  the  matter  was  discussed  at  the  Clubs, 
Thackerary  took  no  notice  of  the  comments  ;  but  when 
the  abuse  of  him  was  transferred  to  the  newspapers,  in 
justice  to  himself  he  was  compelled  to  put  his  case 
before  the  public. 

In  a  leading  article  of  your  journal  of  Thursday, 
the  3rd  instant,  you  commented  upon  literary  pen- 
sions and  the  status  of  literary  men  in  this  country, 
and  illustrated  your  argument  by  extracts  from  the 
story  of  "Pendennis,"  at  present  in  course  of  pub- 
lication [he  wrote  to  the  Editor  of  the  Morning 
Chronicle,  on  January  8,  1850].  You  have  received 
my  writings  with  so  much  kindness  that,  if  you  have 


i8so]     "THE   DIGNITY   OF   LITERATURE"      321 

occasion  to  disapprove  of  them  or  the  author,  I  can't 
question  your  right  to  blame  me,  or  doubt  for  a 
moment  the  friendliness  and  honesty  of  my  critic  ; 
and  however  I  might  dispute  the  justice  of  your 
verdict  in  my  case,  I  had  proposed  to  submit  to  it  in 
silence,  being,  indeed,  very  quiet  in  my  conscience 
with  regard  to  the  charge  made  against  me.  But 
another  newspaper  of  high  character  and  repute 
takes  occasion  to  question  the  principles  advocated 
in  your  article  of  Thursday,  arguing  in  favour  of 
pensions  for  literary  persons,  as  you  argued  against 
them  ;  and  the  only  point  upon  which  the  Examiner 
and  the  Chronicle  appear  to  agree  unluckily  regards 
myself,  who  am  offered  up  to  general  reprehension  in 
two  leading  articles  by  the  two  writers  :  by  the  latter 
for  "fostering  a  baneful  prejudice  "  against  literary 
men  ;  by  the  former  for  "stooping  to  flatter"  this 
prejudice  in  the  public  mind,  and  condescending  to 
caricature  (as  is  too  often  my  habit)  my  literary 
fellow-labourers  in  order  to  pay  court  to  "the  non- 
literary  class."  The  charges  of  the  Examiner  2ig2i\\\^\. 
a  man  who  has  never,  to  his  knowledge,  been 
ashamed  of  his  profession,  or  (except  for  its  dulness) 
of  any  single  line  from  his  pen — grave  as  they  are — 
are,  I  hope,  not  proven.  "To  stoop  to  flatter"  any 
class  is  a  novel  accusation  brought  against  my 
writings  ;  and  as  for  my  scheme  "  to  pay  court  to  the 
non-literary  class  by  disparaging  my  literary  fellow- 
labourers,"  it  is  a  design  which  would  exhibit  a 
degree,  not  only  of  baseness,  but  of  folly,  upon  my 
part,  of  which  I  trust  I  am  not  capable.  The  editor 
of  the  Examiner  may,  perhaps,  occasionally  write, 
like  other  authors,  in  a  hurry,  and  not  be  aware  of 
the  conclusions  to  which  some  of  his  sentences  may 
lead.  If  I  stoop  to  flatter  anybody's  prejudice  for 
some  interested  motives  of  my  own,  I  am  no  more 
nor  less  than  a  rogue  and  a  cheat :  which  deduction 
from  the  Examiner' s  premises  I  will  not  stoop  to 
contradict,  because  the  premises  themselves  are 
simply  absurd.  I  deny  that  the  considerable  body 
of  our  countrymen  described  by  the  Examiner  as 

I.— Y 


322    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

*'the  non-literary  class  "  has  the  least  gratification  in 
witnessing  the  degradation  or  disparagement  of 
literary  men.  Why  accuse  ''the  non-literary  class" 
of  being  so  ungrateful?  If  the  writings  of  an 
author  give  a  reader  pleasure  or  profit,  surely  the 
latter  will  have  a  favourable  opinion  of  the  person 
who  so  benefits  him.  What  intelligent  man,  of 
what  political  views,  would  not  receive  with  respect 
and  welcome  that  writer  of  the  Examiner  of  whom 
your  paper  once  said  that  he  "made  all  England 
laugh  and  think  "?  Who  would  deny  to  that  brilliant 
wit,  that  polished  satirist,  his  just  tribute  of  respect 
and  admiration  ?  Does  any  man  who  has  written  a 
book  worth  reading — any  poet,  novelist,  man  of 
science — lose  reputation  by  his  character  for  genius 
or  for  learning?  Does  he  not,  on  the  contrary,  get 
friends,  sympathy,  applause — money,  perhaps?  all 
good  and  pleasant  things  in  themselves,  and  not 
ungenerously  awarded,  as  they  are  honestly  won. 
That  generous  faith  in  men  of  letters,  that  kindly 
regard  in  which  the  whole  reading  nation  holds 
them,  appear  to  me  to  be  so  clearly  shown  in  our 
country  every  day  that  to  question  them  would  be  as 
absurd  as,  permit  me  to  say  for  my  part,  it  would  be 
ungrateful.  What  is  it  that  fills  mechanics'  insti- 
tutes in  the  great  provincial  towns  when  literary  men 
are  invited  to  attend  their  festivals?  Has  not  every 
literary  man  of  mark  his  friends  and  his  circle,  his 
hundreds,  or  his  tens  of  thousands,  of  readers?  And 
has  not  every  one  had  from  these  constant  and  affect- 
ing testimonials  of  the  esteem  in  which  they  hold 
him.  It  is  of  course  one  writer's  lot,  from  the  nature 
of  his  subject  or  of  his  genius,  to  command  thej 
sympathies  or  awaken  the  curiosity  of  many  morei 
readers  than  shall  choose  to  listen  to  another  author ; 
but  surely  all  get  their  hearing.  The  literary  pro- 
fession is  not  held  in  disrepute;  nobody  wants  toj 
disparage  it ;  no  man  loses  his  social  rank,  whatever] 
it  may  be,  by  practising  it.  On  the  contrary,  the' 
pen  gives  a  place  in  the  world  to  men  who  had  none 
before — a  fair  place,  fairly  achieved  by  their  genius, 


i8so]     "THE   DIGNITY   OF   LITERATURE"      323 

as  any  other  degree  of  eminence  is  by  any  other  kind 
of  merit.  Literary  men  need  not,  as  it  seems  to  me, 
be  in  the  least  querulous  about  their  position  any 
more,  or  want  the  pity  of  anybody.  The  money- 
prizes  which  the  chief  among  them  get  are  not  so 
high  as  those  which  fall  to  men  of  other  callings — to 
bishops,  or  to  judges,  or  to  opera-singers  and  actors; 
nor  have  they  received  stars  and  garters  as  yet,  or 
peerages  and  governorships  of  islands,  such  as  fall 
to  the  lot  of  military  officers.  The  rewards  of  the 
profession  are  not  to  be  measured  by  the  money 
standard  ;  for  one  man  spends  a  life  of  learning  and 
labour  on  a  book  which  does  not  pay  the  printer's 
bill,  and  another  gets  a  little  fortune  by  a  few  light 
volumes.  But,  putting  the  money  out  of  the  ques- 
tion, I  believe  that  the  social  estimation  of  the  man 
of  letters  is  as  good  as  it  deserves  to  be,  and  as  good 
as  that  of  any  other  professional  man.  With  respect 
to  the  question  in  debate  between  you  and  the 
Examiner  as  to  the  propriety  of  public  rewards  and 
honours  for  literary  men,  I  don't  see  why  men  of 
letters  should  not  very  cheerfully  coincide  with  Mr. 
Examiner  in  accepting  all  the  honours,  places,  and 
prizes  which  they  can  get.  The  amount  of  such  as 
will  be  awarded  to  them  will  not,  we  may  be  pretty 
sure,  impoverish  the  country  much  ;  and  if  it  is  the 
custom  of  the  State  to  reward  by  money,  or 
titles  of  honour,  or  stars  and  garters  of  any  sort, 
individuals  who  do  the  country  service,  and  if  in- 
dividuals are  gratified  at  having  *'Sir"  or  **  My 
lord  "  appended  to  their  names,  or  stars  and  ribands 
hooked  on  their  coats  and  waistcoats,  as  men  most 
undoubtedly  are,  and  as  their  wives,  families,  and 
relations  are,  there  can  be  no  reason  why  men  of 
letters  should  not  have  the  chance,  as  well  as  men 
of  the  robe  or  the  sword  ;  or  why,  if  honour  and 
money  are  good  for  one  profession,  they  should  not 
be  good  for  another.  No  man  in  other  callings 
thinks  himself  degraded  by  receiving  a  reward  from 
his  Government ;  nor,  surely,  need  the  literary  man 
be  more  squeamish  about  pensions,  and  ribands,  and 


324    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

titles,  than  the  ambassador,  or  general,  or  judge. 
Every  European  State  but  ours  rewards  its  men  of 
letters  ;  the  American  Government  gives  them  their 
full  share  of  its  small  patronage  ;  and  if  Americans, 
why  not  Englishmen  ?  If  Pitt  Crawley  is  disappointed 
at  not  getting  a  riband  on  returning  from  his  diplo- 
matic post  at  Pumpernickel,  if  General  O'Dowd  is 
pleased  to  be  called  Sir  Hector  O'Dowd,  k.c.b.,  and 
his  wife  at  being  denominated  my  Lady  O'Dowd,  are 
literary  men  to  be  the  only  persons  exempt  from 
vanity,  and  is  it  to  be  a  sin  in  them  to  covet  honour? 
And  now,  with  regard  to  the  charge  against  myself 
of  fostering  baneful  prejudices  against  our  calling — 
to  which  I  no  more  plead  guilty  than  I  should  think 
Fielding  would  have  done  if  he  had  been  accused 
of  a  design  to  bring  the  Church  into  contempt  by 
describing  Parson  Trulliber — permit  me  to  say  that 
before  you  deliver  sentence  it  would  be  as  well  if  you 
had  waited  to  hear  the  whole  of  the  argument.  Who 
knows  what  is  coming  in  the  future  numbers  of  the 
work  which  has  incurred  your  displeasure  and  the 
Examiner's?  and  whether  you,  in  accusing  me  of 
prejudice,  and  the  Examiner  (alas  !)  of  swindling 
and  flattering  the  public,  have  not  been  premature? 
Time  and  the  hour  may  solve  this  mystery,  for  which 
the  candid  reader  is  referred  "to  our  next."  That 
I  have  a  prejudice  against  running  into  debt,  and 
drunkenness  and  disorderly  life,  and  against  quackery 
and  falsehood  in  my  profession,  I  own  ;  and  that 
I  like  to  have  a  laugh  at  those  pretenders  in  it  who 
write  confidential  news  about  fashion  and  politics  for 
^xov\nQA2\  goh  em  ouches  ;  but  lam  not  aware  of  feeling 
any  malice  in  describing  this  weakness,  or  of  doing 
anything  wrong  in  exposing  the  former  vices.  Have 
they  never  existed  amongst  literary  men  ?  Have 
their  talents  never  been  urged  as  a  plea  for  improvi- 
dence, and  their  very  faults  adduced  as  a  consequence 
of  their  genius?  The  only  moral  that  I,  as  a  writer, 
wished  to  hint  in  the  descriptions  against  which  you 
protest,  was,  that  it  was  the  duty  of  a  literary  man, 
as   well    as   any   other,    to    practise    regularity   and 


i85o]     "THE   DIGNITY   OF   LITERATURE"      325 

sobriety,  to  love  his  family,  and  to  pay  his  trades- 
men. Nor  is  the  picture  I  have  drawn  "a  caricature 
which  I  condescend  to,"  any  more  than  it  is  a  wilful 
and  insidious  design  on  my  part  to  flatter  "the  non- 
literary  class."  If  it  be  a  caricature,  it  is  the  result 
of  a  natural  perversity  of  vision,  not  of  an  artful 
desire  to  mislead  ;  but  my  attempt  was  to  tell  the 
truth,  and  I  meant  to  tell  it  not  unkindly.  I  have 
seen  the  bookseller  from  Bludyer  robbed  of  his 
books ;  I  have  carried  money,  and  from  a  noble 
brother  man-of-letters,  to  some  one  not  unlike  Shandon 
in  prison,  and  have  watched  the  beautiful  devotion 
of  his  wife  in  that  dreary  place.  Why  are  these 
things  not  to  be  described,  if  they  illustrate,  as  they 
appear  to  me  to  do,  that  strange  and  awful  struggle 
of  good  and  wrong  which  takes  place  in  our  hearts 
and  in  the  world?  It  may  be  that  I  worked  out  my 
moral  ill,  or  it  may  be  possible  that  the  critic  of  the 
Examiner  fails  in  apprehension.  My  efforts  as  an 
artist  come  perfectly  within  his  province  as  a  censor  ; 
but  when  Mr.  Examiner  says  of  a  gentleman  that  he 
is  "stooping  to  flatter  a  public  prejudice" — which 
public  prejudice  does  not  exist — I  submit  that  he 
makes  a  charge  which  is  as  absurd  as  it  is  unjust, 
and  am  thankful  that  it  repels  itself.  And,  instead 
of  accusing  the  public  of  persecuting  and  disparag- 
ing us  as  a  class,  it  seems  to  me  that  men  of  letters 
had  best  silently  assume  that  they  are  as  good  as  any 
other  gentlemen,  nor  raise  piteous  controversies  upon 
a  question  which  all  people  of  sense  must  take  to  be 
settled.  If  I  sit  at  your  table,  I  suppose  that  I  am 
my  neighbour's  equal,  as  that  he  is  mine.  If  I  began 
straightway  with  a  protest  of  "Sir,  I  am  a  literary 
man,  but  I  would  have  you  to  know  I  am  as  good  as 
you,"  which  of  us  is  it  that  questions  the  dignity 
of  the  literary  profession — my  neighbour,  who  would 
like  to  eat  his  soup  in  quiet,  or  the  man  of  letters, 
who  commences  the  argument?  And  I  hope  that 
a  comic  writer,  because  he  describes  one  author  as 
improvident  and  another  as  a  parasite,  may  not  only 
be  guiltless  of  a  desire  to  vilify  his  profession,  but 


326    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

may  really  have  its  honour  at  heart.  If  there  are  no 
spendthrifts  or  parasites  amongst  us,  the  satire  be- 
comes unjust ;  but  if  such  exist,  or  have  existed,  they 
are  as  good  subjects  for  comedy  as  men  of  other 
callings.  I  never  heard  that  the  Bar  felt  itself  ag- 
grieved because  Punch  chose  to  describe  Mr.  Dunup's 
notorious  state  of  insolvency  ;  or  that  the  picture 
of  Stiggins  in  Pickwick  was  intended  as  an  insult 
to  all  Dissenters ;  or  that  all  the  attorneys  in  the 
empire  were  indignant  at  the  famous  history  of  the 
firm  of  "  Quirk,  Gammon,  and  Snap."  Are  we  to  be 
passed  over  because  we  are  faultless,  or  because  we 
cannot  afford  to  be  laughed  at?  And  if  every  char- 
acter in  a  story  is  to  represent  a  class,  not  an 
individual — if  every  bad  figure  is  to  have  its  obliged 
contrast  of  a  good  one,  and  a  balance  of  vice  and 
virtue  is  to  be  struck — novels,  I  think,  would  become 
impossible,  as  they  would  be  intolerably  stupid  and 
unnatural,  and  there  would  be  a  lamentable  end  of 
writers  and  readers  of  such  compositions.^ 

Thackeray  was  the  last  person  who  should  have  been 
charged  with  an  attempt  to  lower  the  dignity  of  letters. 
He  never  thought  lightly  of  his  profession,  and  again 
and  again  he  spoke  of  the  sense  of  responsibility  that 
an  author  should  feel. 

What  a  place  it  is  to  hold  in  the  affections  of  man  ! 
What  an  awful  responsibility  hanging  over  a  writer  ! 
What  man,  holding  such  a  place,  and  knowing  that 
his  words  go  forth  to  vast  congregations  of  mankind 
— to  grown  folks,  to  their  children,  and,  perhaps  to 
their  children's  children — but  must  think  of  his  calling 
with  a  solemn  and  a  humble  heart !  May  love  and 
truth  guide  such  a  man  always !  It  is  an  awful  prayer, 
and  may  Heaven  further  its  fulfilment  !- 

^  Morniyig  Chronicle,  January  12,  1850. 

2  Mr.  Brown's  Letters — Brown  the  Younger  at  a  Club. 


i85o]  A   PRESENTATION  327 

He  expressed  the  same  sentiments  in  his  reply  to  Dr. 
John  Brown,  when  that  gentleman,  then  unknown  to 
him,  presented  to  him  in  1848  a  silver  statuette  of 
Punch  purchased  by  some  Edinburgh  admirers  of  his 
genius. 

The  arms  and  the  man  arrived  in  safety  yesterday, 
and  I  am  glad  to  know  the  names  of  two  of  the  eighty 
Edinburgh  friends  who  have  taken  such  a  kind 
method  of  showing  their  goodwill  towards  me.  If 
you  are  grati,  I  am  gratior.  Such  tokens  of  regard 
and  sympathy  are  very  precious  to  a  writer  like 
myself,  who  has  some  difficulty  still  in  making  people 
understand  what  you  have  been  good  enough  to  find 
out  in  Edinburgh,  that  under  the  mask  satirical  there 
walks  about  a  sentimental  gentleman  who  means  not 
unkindly  to  any  mortal  person.  I  can  see  exactly  the 
same  expression  under  the  vizard  of  my  little  friend 
in  silver,  and  hope  some  day  to  shake  the  whole  octo- 
gint  by  the  hand  gratos  and  gratas,  and  thank  them 
for  their  friendliness  and  regard.  I  think  I  had  better 
say  no  more  on  the  subject,  lest  I  should  be  tempted 
into  some  enthusiastic  writing  of  which  I  am  afraid. 
I  assure  you  these  tokens  of  what  I  can't  help  ac- 
knowledging as  popularity — make  me  humble  as  well 
as  grateful — and  make  me  feel  an  almost  awful  sense 
of  the  responsibility  which  falls  upon  a  man  in  such  a 
station.  Is  it  deserved  or  undeserved?  Who  is  this 
that  sets  up  to  preach  to  mankind  and  to  laugh  at 
many  of  the  things  which  men  reverence?  I  hope  I 
shall  be  able  to  tell  the  truth  always,  and  to  see  it 
aright  according  to  the  eyes  which  God  Almighty 
gives  me.  And  if,  in  the  exercise  of  my  calling,  I  get 
friends,  and  find  encouragement  and  sympathy,  I 
need  not  tell  you  how  much  I  feel  and  am  thankful 
for  this  support. — Indeed,  I  can't  reply  lightly  upon 
this  subject  or  feel  otherwise  than  very  grave  when 
men  praise  me  as  you  do.^ 

1  Dr.  John  Brown  :  Thackeray  {North  British  Review^  February  1864  ; 
Vol.  XI,  pp.  224-5). 


328    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1849- 

Thackeray,  however,  in  spite  of  his  reverence  for  his 
calling,  had  no  patience  with  those  who  prated  pom- 
pously of  their  ''  call  "  to  the  work  ;  and  he  would  not 
allow  that  even  literary  genius  was  an  excuse  for 
license. 

Men  of  letters  cannot  lay  their  hands  on  their 
hearts,  and  say,  "No,  the  fault"  (that  caused  their 
intellectual  inferiors  to  sneer  at  them)  "was  Fortune's 
and  the  indifferent  world's,  not  Goldsmith's  or  Field- 
ing's." There  was  no  reason  why  Oliver  should 
always  be  thriftless  ;  why  Fielding  and  Steele  should 
sponge  upon  their  friends  ;  why  Sterne  should  make 
love  to  his  neighbour's  wives.  Swift,  for  a  long 
while,  was  as  poor  as  any  wag  that  ever  laughed,  but 
he  owed  no  penny  to  his  neighbour  ;  Addison,  when 
he  wore  his  most  threadbare  coat,  would  hold  his 
head  up  and  maintain  his  dignity;  and,  I  dare  vouch, 
neither  of  these  gentlemen,  when  they  were  ever  so 
poor,  asked  any  man  alive  to  pity  their  condition, 
and  have  a  regard  to  the  weaknesses  incidental  to  the 
literary  profession.^ 

He  was  always  concerned  to  state  what  should  be  the 
literary  man's  point  of  honour.  In  his  struggling  days 
he  set  it  forth  as  it  appeared  to  him. 

To  do  your  work  honestly,  to  amuse  and  instruct 
your  reader  of  to-day,  to  die  when  your  time  comes, 
and  go  hence  with  as  clean  a  breast  as  may  be  ;  may 
all  these  be  yours  and  ours,  by  God's  will.  Let  us  be 
content  with  our  status  as  literary  craftsmen,  telling 
the  truth  as  far  as  may  be,  hitting  no  foul  blow,  con- 
descending to  no  servile  puffery,  filling  not  a  very 
lofty,  but  a  manly  and  honourable  part. 

^  A  Brother  of  the  Press  on  .  .  .  the  Chances  of  the  Literary  Profes- 
sion {Fraser's  Magazine,  March  1846). 


i85o]  THE   HONOUR   OF   THE   FLAG  329 

Towards  the  end  of  his  life,  when  paying  tribute  to 
Tom  Hood,  as  when  writing  his  beautiful  appreciation 
of  Washington  Irving  and  Macaulay,  he  returned  to 
the  subject. 

It  may  not  be  our  chance,  brother  scribe,  to  be 
endowed  with  such  merit  or  rewarded  with  such 
fame  [he  concluded  his  appreciation  of  Macaulay  and 
Washington  Irving].  But  the  rewards  of  these  men 
are  rewards  paid  to  our  service.  We  may  not  win  the 
baton  or  epaulettes,  but  God  give  us  strength  to 
guard  the  honour  of  the  flag  ! 

It  is  pleasing  to  think  that  he  who  wrote  these  lines 
was  ever  in  the  foremost  rank  of  those  who  pressed 
forward  to  fight  for  the  honour  of  the  flag. 


CHAPTER  XVII 


"THE   ENGLISH   HUMOURISTS"  AND 
(1851-1852) 


ESMOND" 


The  last  number  of  "  Pendennis "  issued — Thackeray  proposes  to 
lecture — his  friends'  objections — a  subject  found  in  "The  English 
Humourists  of  the  Eighteenth  Century  " — the  first  lecture  at  Willis's 
Rooms — Thackeray's  nervousness — accounts  of  his  reading — the 
audiences — a  furore  for  the  lectures — Thackeray  invited  to  deliver 
them  in  England  and  America — he  writes  "Esmond" — refuses  to 
contribute  to  "Social  Zoologies" — George  M.  Smith  secures  the 
pubHshing  rights  of  "Esmond" — Thackeray's  publishers — Thackeray's 
comments  on  "Esmond" — "  Esmond's"  place  in  literature — Thack- 
eray and  his  daughters  go  abroad — he  returns  to  London — prepares 
for  the  American  lecture  tour. 

THE  last  number  of  "Pendennis"  appeared 
in  December  1850,  and  early  in  the  following 
year  it  was  announced  that  Thackeray  would 
make  his  dehiit  as  a  lecturer.  Anthony 
Trollope  in  his  monograph  on  Thackeray  devoted 
two  pages  of  his  short  biographical  chapter  to  the 
consideration  of  the  effect  that  lecturing  might  have 
had  upon  Thackeray's  fame  as  a  writer,  arguing  for  and 
against  the  indignity  of  the  proceedings,  and  eventually 
concluding  that  the  money  made  by  the  new  venture 
was  "  earned  honestly  and  with  the  full  approval  of  the 
world  around  him."^  Who  can  doubt  it?  Even  the 
reputation   of  the  author  of  "Vanity  Fair"  was   not 

^  Thackeray  (English  Men  of  Letters),  pp.  43-5. 
330 


^N^:5% 


■/I 


WILLIAM    MAKKI'EACE   THACKKRAY 
From  a  ficncii sketch  by  Ricliard  Doyle,  in  the  British  Museum 


i8Si]  DISLIKES   LECTURING  331 

likely  to  be  imperilled  by  reading  to  an  audience  **  The 
English  Humourists  of  the  Eighteenth  Century  "  or 
*'The  Four  Georges"  ;  but  Thackeray  was  not  happy 
about  it.  Sir  Edward  Hamley  and  other  friends 
remonstrated  with  him,  arguing  that  a  man  of  his 
talents  should  not  waste  his  time  in  such  a  way  ;  and 
Thackeray  told  Lady  CuUum  no  one  could  conceive 
how  it  mortified  him  to  have  to  make  money  by 
lecturing:  speaking  of  Carlyle,  "//e  would  not  go 
round  making  a  show  of  himself  as  I  am  doing,"  he 
exclaimed.  ''But  he  has  lectured!  He  did  it  once, 
and  was  done  with  it."  However,  he  forced  himself  to 
overcome  his  objections,  remembering  it  was  his 
duty,  as  it  was,  of  course,  his  desire,  to  make  money 
to  replace  his  patrimony,  and  thus  to  make  provision 
for  his  family. 

But  as  I  don't  intend  to  touch  the  proceeds  of  the 
lectures  myself  [he  wrote  to  Dr.  John  Brown]  and 
shall  invest  all  the  winnings  for  my  two  girls 
and  their  poor  mother,  I'm  bolder  than  I  should  be 
otherwise  in  the  business,  and  determined  to  carry  it 
through  with  brazen  resolution. 

The  subject  selected  for  the  series  of  lectures  was 
**  The  English  Humourists  of  the  Eighteenth  Century." 
The  writers  of  this  period  had  always  been  Thackeray's 
favourite  reading,  and  at  the  moment  they  were  much 
in  his  mind,  owing  to  the  fact  that  he  was  studying  the 
eighteenth  century,  which  was  to  be  the  scene  of  the 
novel  upon  which  he  was  now  engaged. 

The  first  lecture  was  given  on  the  afternoon  of 
May  22,  and  the  others  were  delivered  on  May  29, 
June  12,  19,  26,  and  July  3.     The  price  for  a  reserved 


332    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1851- 

seat  for  the  course  was  two  guineas,  and  seven  shillings 
and  sixpence  was  charged  for  an  unreserved  place  for  a 
single  lecture.  Always  averse  to  public  speaking, 
Thackeray's  nervousness  during  the  half-hour  before 
the  delivery  of  the  first  lecture  was  pitiable.  "Going 
thither  (to  Willis's  Rooms)  before  the  time  for  his 
beginning,"  Mrs.  Kemble  has  related,  "I  found  him 
standing  like  a  forlorn,  disconsolate  giant  in  the  middle 
of  the  room,  gazing  about  him.  '  Oh,  Lord,'  he  ex- 
claimed, as  he  shook  hands  with  me,  '  I'm  sick  at  my 
stomach  with  fright.'  I  spoke  some  words  of  encourage- 
ment to  him,  and  was  going  away,  but  he  held 
my  hand  like  a  scared  child,  crying,  *  Oh,  don't 
leave  me!'  'But,'  said  I,  'Thackeray,  you  mustn't 
stand  here.  Your  audience  are  beginning  to  come  in,' 
and  I  drew  him  from  the  middle  of  his  chairs  and 
benches,  which  were  beginning  to  be  occupied,  into 
the  retiring-room  adjoining  the  lecture-room,  my  own 
readings  having  made  me  perfectly  familiar  with  both. 
Here  he  began  pacing  up  and  down,  literally  wringing 
his  hands  in  nervous  distress.  'Now,'  said  I,  'what 
shall  I  do  ?  Shall  I  stay  with  you  till  you  begin,  or 
shall  I  go,  and  leave  you  alone  to  collect  yourself?' 
'Oh,'  he  said,  'if  I  could  only  get  at  that  confounded 
thing  (the  MS.)  to  have  a  last  look  at  it ! '  '  Where  is 
it? 'said  I.  'Oh,  in  the  next  room  on  the  reading- 
desk.'  'Well,'  said  I,  'if  you  don't  like  to  go  in  and 
get  it,  I'll  fetch  it  for  you.'  And  remembering  well 
the  position  of  my  reading-table,  which  had  been  close 
to  the  door  of  the  retiring-room,  I  darted  in,  hoping  to 
snatch  the  manuscript  without  attracting  the  attention 
of  the  audience,   with   which    the   room   was  already 


i852]  HIS   NERVOUSNESS  333 

nearly  full.  I  had  been  used  to  deliver  my  reading 
seated  at  a  very  low  table,  but  my  friend  Thackeray 
gave  his  lectures  standing,  and  had  a  reading-desk 
placed  on  the  platform,  adapted  to  his  own  very  tall 
stature,  so  that  when  I  came  to  get  his  manuscript  it 
was  almost  above  my  head.  Though  rather  dis- 
concerted, I  was  determined  not  to  go  back  without  it, 
and  so  made  a  half-jump  and  a  clutch  at  the  book, 
when  every  leaf  of  it  (they  were  not  fastened  together) 
came  fluttering  separately  down  about  me.  I  hardly 
know  what  I  did,  but  I  think  I  must  have  gone  nearly 
on  all  fours,  in  my  agony  to  gather  up  the  scattered 
leaves,  and,  retreating  with  them,  held  them  out  in 
dismay  to  poor  Thackeray,  crying,  *  Oh,  look,  look, 
what  a  dreadful  thing  I  have  done  ! '  '  My  dear  soul,' 
he  said,  '  you  couldn't  have  done  better  for  me.  I  have 
just  a  quarter  of  an  hour  to  wait  here,  and  it  will  take 
me  about  that  to  page  this  again,  and  it's  the  best 
thing  in  the  world  that  could  have  happened.'  With 
which  infinite  kindness  he  comforted  me,  for  I  was  all 
but  crying,  at  having,  as  I  thought,  increased  his 
distress  and  troubles."^ 

In  spite  of  the  nervousness  which  so  affected  his  voice 
that  his  daughter  did  not  recognise  it  when  she  heard 
the  opening  words,  '*  In  treating  of  the  English 
Humourists  of  the  past  age,  it  is  of  the  men  and  of 
their  lives,  rather  than  of  their  books,  that  I  ask 
permission  to  speak  to  you,"  Thackeray  gathered 
courage  as  he  proceeded,  and  was  entirely  success- 
ful. Very  different  from  Dickens's  dramatic  readings 
were  Thackeray's  lectures  ;  and,  indeed,  so  far  as  can 

^  Records  of  Later  Life. 


334    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1851- 

be  gathered  from  the  reports  of  those  present,  the  two 
performances  bore  the  relationship  that  exists  between 
melodrama  and  comedy  :  each  admirable  of  its  kind — 
but  there  the  resemblance  ends.  Sir  Frank  Marzials 
says  that  the  secret  of  Thackeray's  charm  "lay  in  an 
admirable  quiet  delivery,  that,  without  undue  emphasis 
or  pause  for  effect,  gave  the  hearer  the  full  value  of 
every  sentence."  Charlotte  Bronte  wrote  to  her  father 
that  "Thackeray  got  up  and  spoke  with  as  much 
simplicity  and  ease  as  if  he  had  been  speaking  to  a  few 
friends  by  his  own  fireside  ;  the  lecture  was  truly  good 
.  .  .  ;  it  was  finished  without  being  in  the  least 
studied, — a  quiet  humour  and  graphic  force  enlivened 
it  throughout"  ;  and  Caroline  Fox  said  he  read  in  "a 
definite  dry  manner,  but  makes  you  understand  what 
he  is  about."  Longfellow  recorded  that  the  lectures 
were  "pleasant  to  hear  from  that  soft,  deep,  sonorous 
voice "  ;  and  Motley,  who  some  years  later  heard  a 
lecture  on  "  The  Four  Georges,"  wrote  :  "I  was  much 
impressed  with  the  quiet,  graceful  ease  with  which 
Thackeray  read — ^just  a  few  notes  above  the  conversa- 
tional level, — but  never  rising  into  the  declamatory. 
This  light-in-hand  manner  suits  well  the  delicate 
hovering  rather  than  superficial  style  of  the  composi- 
tion. He  skims  lightly  over  the  surface  of  the  long 
epoch,  throwing  out  a  sketch  here,  exhibiting  a  charac- 
teristic trait  there,  and  sprinklingabout  a  few  anecdotes, 
portraits,  and  historical  allusions,  running  about  from 
grave  to  gay,  from  lively  to  severe,  moving  and  mocking 
the  sensibilities  in  a  breath,  in  a  way  which  I  should 
say  was  the  perfection  of  lecturing  to  high-bred 
audiences." 


1852]         "THE   ENGLISH    HUMOURISTS"         335 

The  audiences  at  Willis's  Rooms  included  many  of 
the  most  famous  persons  in  London.  Besides  Charlotte 
Bronte,  Carlyle  and  his  wife  went,  Harriet  Martineau, 
too,  and  Monckton  Milnes,  Hallam,  Dickens,  Lord 
Carlisle,  the  Brookfields,  Doyle,  Cruikshank,  Kinglake, 
Lord  Mahon,  Millais,  Landseer,  Dean  Milman,  the 
Duchess  of  Sutherland,  and  Lady  Ashburton.  Macaulay 
was  present  at  each  lecture,  and  referred  to  one  of  them 
in  his  diary  :  ' '  Margaret  came  to  take  me  to  Thackeray's 
(third)  lecture.  He  is  full  of  humour  and  imagination, 
and  I  only  wish  that  these  lectures  may  answer  both  in 
the  way  of  fame  and  money.  He  told  me,  as  I  was 
going  out,  that  the  scheme  had  done  wonders  for  him  ; 
and  I  told  him,  and  from  my  heart,  that  I  wish  he  had 
made  ten  times  as  much."  ^ 

The  truth  is  the  lectures  won't  do  [Thackeray 
wrote  to  Abraham  Hayward  on  May  23].  They  were 
all  friends,  and  a  packed  house,  though,  to  be  sure, 
it  goes  to  a  man's  heart  to  find  among  his  friends 
such  men  as  you  and  Kinglake  and  Venables, 
Higgins,  Rawlinson,  Carlyle,  Ashburton,  Hallam, 
Milman,  Macaulay,  Wilberforce,  looking  on.^ 

But  the  lectures  did  do.  They  were  an  undoubted 
success — "  There  is  quite  q.  furore  for  them,"  Charlotte 
Bronte  wrote — and  Thackeray  was  invited  to  repeat 
them  by  Young  Men's  Associations  and  Literary  Clubs 
all  over  the  country.  "  They  make  me  an  offer  of  ;^i50 
at  the  Portman  Square  Rooms— pretty  well  for  six 
hours";  he  said  gleefully,  reflecting  that  an  hour's 
reading   would    be  as    profitable   as    a  week's   work. 

1  Life  and  Letters  of  Lord  Macaulay,  p.  552. 
^  Correspondence  of  Abraham  Hayward. 


ZZ^    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  tiSsi- 

So  he  accepted  many  offers — as  he  put  it,  ''the 
Titmarsh-Van  began  its  career " — and  delivered  the 
"  EngHsh  Humourists"  at  Oxford  and  Cambridge,  at 
Edinburgh,  Manchester,  Liverpool,  and  a  score  of 
other  places  during  the  year. 

From  the  United  States  also  came  invitations  too 
tempting  to  be  refused,  and  some  of  these  were  enter- 
tained, though  Thackeray  could  not  be  persuaded  to 
sign  any  contract  until  he  arrived  in  New  York.  Before 
leaving  England,  however,  he  had  to  finish  the  novel 
upon  which  he  was  engaged,  "  The  History  of  Henry 
Esmond,  Esquire :  A  Colonel  in  the  service  of  Queen 
Anne,  Written  by  Himself."  This  was  to  be  published 
in  three  volumes.  "  I  have  given  up  and  only  had  for 
a  day  or  two,  the  notion  for  the  book  in  numbers," 
Thackeray  said.  ''It  is  much  too  grave  and  sad  for 
that."  Diligent  reading  of  eighteenth-century  memoirs 
was  necessary  for  "Esmond,"  and  Eyre  Crowe,  who 
from  April  1851  was  Thackeray's  secretary  and  amanu- 
ensis, has  related  how  the  author,  with  him  in  attend- 
ance, spent  much  time  in  the  British  Museum  Library, 
where,  in  a  room  allotted  to  him  for  the  purpose 
by  Panizzi,  he  dictated  the  General  Webb  and  Marl- 
borough and  Cadogan  incident.  More  of  the  book 
was  written  at  the  Athenaeum  Club,  where  one  of  the 
side  rooms  off  the  large  library  was  placed  at  his 
disposal;  and  muchjwas  done  at  the  Bedford  Hotel, 
while  his  children  were  with  his  mother  and  Major 
Carmichael-Smyth  in  Paris,  and  the  Young  Street 
house  was  in  the  painters'  hands. 

Shortly  after  the  publication  of  the  early  numbers 
of    "Vanity    Fair,"    Henry    Vizetelly,    on    behalf   of 


1 1  1.3 

1 


I 


MR.  MICHAEL  ANGEI.O  TITMAIiSII, 
As  he  appeared  at  Willis's  Kooms  in  Iiis  cckbrated  cliaracter  of  Mr.  Thackeray. 


Ffoiii  a  sketch  hy  John  Leech  in  "  The  Month,'  J„/y,  /Sj/ 


i8S2]  "ESMOND"  337 

Bogue,  the  publisher,  had  invited  Thackeray  to  write 
as  many  little  volumes  as  he  would  undertake 
for  a  series  called  "Social  Zoologies."  The  first 
brochure,  "The  Gent,"  by  Albert  Smith,  had  been 
phenomenally  successful ;  and  Bogue  very  wisely  deter- 
mined to  secure  the  best  writers  for  future  volumes. 
The  terms  were  liberal :  a  hundred  guineas — ^just  double 
the  amount  paid  for  a  monthly  part,  including  the 
etching  of  two  plates,  of  "Vanity  Fair."  Thackeray 
admitted  the  offer  was  tempting,  but  declined — it  was 
said,  by  reason  of  his  disinclination  to  be  associated  in 
any  way  with  Albert  Smith.  Vizetelly  remarked  that 
Thackeray  could  not  tolerate  Smith's  mauvais  gout, 
and  that,  though  showing  him  outward  civility  when 
brought  into  contact  with  him,  the  occasional  observa- 
tions which  escaped  him  disclosed  his  true  sentiments 
respecting  the  other's  mountebank  ways.  When 
"Pendennis"  was  nearly  finished,  Vizetelly  again  ap- 
proached Thackeray,  this  time  on  behalf  of  Messrs. 
Smith,  Elder  and  Co. ;  and  subsequently  George  Smith, 
the  head  of  the  firm,  called  at  Young  Street.  "There's 
a  young  fellow  just  come,"  Thackeray  said,  as  he 
burst  into  the  room  where  his  daughters  were  sitting. 
"  He  has  brought  a  thousand  pounds  in  his  pocket : 
he  has  made  me  an  offer  for  my  book :  it's  the  most 
spirited,  handsome  offer,  I  scarcely  like  to  take  him 
at  his  word  :  he's  hardly  more  than  a  boy  ;  his  name 
is  George  Smith ;  he's  waiting  there  now,  and  I  must 
go  back  to  him."  The  actual  terms  were  ^^1200  for  an 
edition  of  2500  copies,  to  be  issued  in  three  volumes 
at  a  guinea  and  a  half. 

Thackeray  had  published  his  earliest  books  through 

I.— z 


33S    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1851- 

Macrone  and  Cunningham ;  but  afterwards  he  had 
gone  to  Messrs.  Chapman  and  Hall  and  Messrs.  Brad- 
bury and  Evans,  the  former  issuing  "The  Irish  Sketch 
Book",  "From  Cornhill  to  Cairo",  "Mrs.  Perkins's 
Ball",  "Our  Street",  "Dr.  Birch  and  His  Young 
Friends",  and  "Rebecca  and  Rowena " ;  the  latter, 
"Vanity  Fair",  "Pendennis",  "The  Book  of  Snobs," 
and  "  The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond."  Messrs.  Chap- 
man and  Hall  had  not  been  satisfied  with  the  sale  of 
"Dr.  Birch"  and  "Rebecca  and  Rowena,"  and  were 
not  eager  to  issue  another  Christmas  Book  :  where- 
upon Thackeray  invited  Messrs.  Smith,  Elder  and  Co. 
to  issue  "The  Kickleburys  on  the  Rhine,"  and  the 
offer  was  at  once  accepted.  This  was  the  beginning 
of  the  connection  between  the  novelist  and  the  great 
publishing  house,  which  in  the  course  of  the  next  few 
years  issued  "Esmond",  "The  English  Humourists," 
and  "The  Rose  and  the  Ring."  Thackeray,  however, 
did  not  desert  his  old  friends,  the  proprietors  of  Punc/i, 
and  Messrs.  Bradbury  and  Evans  published  "The 
Newcomes,"  the  four  volumes  of  "Miscellanies" 
(1855-7),  ^"d  "  The  Virginians  ";  and  it  was  not  until 
after  the  founding  of  the  Cornhill  Magazine^  by  pur- 
chasing the  rights  of  the  other  firms,  that  Messrs. 
Smith,  Elder  and  Co.  became  Thackeray's  sole  pub- 
lishers. 

In  May  1852  Edward  FitzGerald  saw  Thackeray, 
who,  he  says,  "was  just  in  the  agony  of  finishing  a 
novel "  and  desirous  to  go  abroad  for  a  brief  holiday. 
The  book  was  finished  on  May  28,  when  Thackeray 
gave  a  dinner  party  to  celebrate  the  occasion. 

"You'll  find  it  dull,  but  it's  founded  upon  family 


i8S2]         "THE    VERY   BEST    I    CAN   DO"  339 

papers,"  Thackeray  said  of  *' Esmond"  to  John  (after- 
wards Canon)  Irvine  ;  and  to  another  friend  he 
stated  his  conviction  that  the  hero  is  a  prig :  but 
probably  he  expressed  his  true  opinion  to  Fields,  who 
met  him  soon  after  his  arrival  in  Boston  with  the  three 
volumes  of  '*  Esmond  "  tucked  under  his  arm  :  "  Here 
is  the  very  best  I  can  do  ;  and  I  am  carrying  it  to 
Prescott  as  a  reward  of  merit  for  having  given  me  my 
first  dinner  in  America.  I  stand  by  this  book,  and  am 
willing  to  leave  it  where  I  go  as  my  card."^  Especially 
did  Thackeray  like  the  chapter  where  Henry  Esmond 
returns  to  Lady  Castlewood,  bringing  his  sheaves  with 
him,  as  she  says — "  I  wish  the  whole  book  was  as 
good,"  he  added,  ''  but  we  can't  play  first  fiddle  all  the 
time." 

Charlotte  Bronte  might  think  that  in  "Esmond" 
there  was  ''too  much  history — too  little  story,"  and 
George  Eliot  might  pronounce  it  "  a  most  uncomfort- 
able book  "  ;  historical  critics  might  object  that  there 
are  blunders :  that  Thackeray  makes  the  Duke  of 
Hamilton  a  few  years  younger  than  he  was,  and  makes 
him  a  widower  when,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  he  had 
married  a  second  time  in  1698,  and  was  outlived  by  his 
wife  ;  that  Lady  Dorchester  was  not  the  daughter  of 
Tom  Killigrew  but  of  Sir  Charles  Sedley  ;  that  Esmond 
and  Beatrix  refer  to  "  Peter  Wilkins  "  some  forty  years 
before  that  book  was  published  ;  that  the  play  which 
Lord  Castlewood  and  Lord  Mohun  went  to  see  at 
Drury  Lane  could  not  have  been  ''Love  in  a  Wood," 
because,  for  one  reason  anyway,  the  disguise  of  a 
page  is  not  worn  by  any  of  the  ladies  taking  part  in 

1  J.  T.  Fields  :    Yesterdays  with  Authors, 


340  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [i8Si- 
that  comedy  ;  and  so  on.  Yet,  in  spite  of  all  who  find 
fault  with  it,  "Esmond"  has  taken  its  place  in  litera- 
ture, not  only  as  one  of  the  author's  masterpieces — for 
"Vanity  Fair"  ranks  with  it — but  as  one  of  the  best 
historical  novels  ever  written.  "Never  could  I  have 
believed,"  said  Walter  Savage  Landor  when  the  book 
was  published,  "that  Thackeray,  great  as  his  abilities 
are,  could  have  written  so  noble  a  story  as  '  Esmond.'  " 
"A  greater  novel  than  'Esmond'  I  do  not  know," 
Professor  Saintsbury  has  written  half  a  century  later, 
"and  I  do  not  know  many  greater  works." 

When  Esmond  was  finished  Thackeray  went  abroad 
again  with  his  children,  and  he  was  somewhat  amused 
at  the  difference  in  his  attitude  when  travelling  en 
gargon  and  as  a  family  man.  They  went  to  Antwerp, 
then  down  the  Rhine,  and  then  to  Switzerland,  returning 
via  Paris,  where  Thackeray  left  his  daughters  with 
Mrs.  Carmichael-Smyth,  feeling  very  keenly  the  part- 
ing with  them. 

You  have  just  parted  from  the  dear  ones  with 
bursting  heart ;  and,  lonely  man,  just  torn  from  your 
children  .  .  .  their  little  tokens  of  affection  yet  in 
your  pocket  .  .  .  pacing  the  deck  at  evening  in  the 
midst  of  the  roaring  ocean,  you  can  remember  how 
you  were  told  supper  was  ready,  and  how  you  went 
down  into  the  cabin,  and  had  brandy  and  water  and 
biscuit.  You  remember  the  taste  of  them.  Yes, 
for  ever.  You  took  them  while  you  and  your  Grief 
were  sitting  together,  and  your  Grief  clutched  you 
round  the  soul. 

Before  Thackeray  could  go  to  America,  however, 
there  were  more  lectures  to  deliver,  "Vanity  Fair"  to 
be   revised  for  a  cheaper  edition,   and  the   proofs   of 


i852]  SAILS    FOR   AMERICA  341 

*' Esmond"  to  be  passed  for  press.  The  original 
edition  of  '*  Esmond"  was  printed  in  the  obsolete  type 
of  the  reign  of  Queen  Anne,  and  as  only  a  small 
quantity  could  be  obtained,  it  took  longer  than  had 
been  expected  to  set  up  the  book.  Then  the  manuscript 
of  the  third  volume  was  mislaid  at  the  printers,  and 
it  looked  as  if  the  author  would  have  to  postpone  his 
journey  until  he  had  rewritten  the  missing  chapters. 
Happily  the  manuscript  was  found  ;  but  Thackeray 
only  received  his  bound  copies  while  he  was  on  the 
pier  waiting  for  the  tender  to  carry  him  to  the  ship. 

Thackeray  went  to  Liverpool  to  deliver  a  course  of 
lectures  at  the  Athen^um  in  that  city  on  the  Tuesdays 
and  Thursdays,  September  28  and  30,  and  October  5, 
7,  12  and  14;  and  to  Manchester  at  the  Philharmonic 
Hall  on  the  Wednesdays  and  Fridays  of  the  same 
weeks.  Then  he  returned  to  London,  going  again  to 
Liverpool  on  October  29,  in  company  with  Eyre  Crowe, 
who  was  to  accompany  him  to  America.  That  night 
they  dined  at  the  house  of  Mr.  Ratcliffe  ;  t\\Q.  piece  de 
resistance  of  the  meal  being  roast  sucking-pig — a  sur- 
prise for  the  great  man,  who  loved  only  beans  and 
bacon  better.  On  the  following  morning  Thackeray 
and  Eyre  Crowe,  with  their  fellow-travellers,  Lowell, 
just  returned  from  Italy,  and  Arthur  Hugh  Clough, 
embarked  on  the  R.M.S.  Canada  (Captain  Lang). 

The  lectures  were  as  highly  approved  in  the  pro- 
vinces as  in  London.  At  Oxford,  where  he  stayed 
with  his  old  friend  Stoddart,  the  readings  were  worth 
thirty  pounds  apiece ;  and  Cambridge  showed  itself 
nearly  as  appreciative  as  the  sister  university.  At 
Edinburgh,  too,  they  were  a  great  success — a  hundred 


342    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY    [1852 

subscribers,  and  two  hundred  other  people  for  the  first 
lecture.  Indeed,  the  audiences  there  were  so  large 
that  the  visit  to  America,  at  this  time  arranged  for 
May,  hung  in  the  balance.  It  was  not,  however, 
abandoned.  "I  must  and  will  go,  not  because  I  like 
it,  but  because  it  is  right  I  should  secure  some  money 
against  my  death  for  your  mother  and  you  two  girls,' 
he  told  his  daughters.  ''And  I  think,  if  I  have  luck, 
I  may  secure  nearly  a  third  of  the  sum  I  ought  to  leave 
behind  me  by  a  six  months'  tour  in  the  United  States." 


CHAPTER   XVIII 

FIRST  VISIT  TO   THE    UNITED    STATES 

(1852-1853) 

Thackeray  attacked  in  an  American  paper  before  he  sails — a  fair  chance 
g-iven  him  on  arrival — his  first  dinner  at  Boston — in  New  York — his 
great  popularity  in  the  United  States — his  books  better  known  there 
than  in  Eng-land — on  pirated  editions — Thackeray  likes  America  and 
Americans — his  objections  to  personal  journalism  in  the  United 
States — "  Mr.  Thackeray  in  the  United  States  " — his  lectures  in  New 
York — and  elsewhere — "  Charity  and  Humour" — tired  of  acting  the 
lion — his  sudden  departure  for  England. 

THACKERAY  prepared  for  his  American 
trip  in  no  hilarious  frame  of  mind,  and 
while  lecturing  in  Liverpool  he  was  further 
depressed  by  seeing  in  a  New  York  paper 
a  bitter  attack  on  him.  It  was,  indeed,  very  doubtful 
what  reception  he  would  meet  with  from  the  Ameri- 
cans, who,  still  smarting  under  the  castigation 
inflicted  by  Dickens  in  his  *'  American  Notes,"  and 
thinking  of  the  '*Boz"  Tableaux  and  the  Dickens 
Ball  at  the  Park  Theatre,  not  unnaturally  said  : 
*' Thackeray  will  come  and  humbug  us,  eat  our  dinners, 
pocket  our  money,  and  go  home,  and  abuse  us  like 
Dickens."  The  instinct  of  fair-play,  however,  is  in  all 
English-speaking  races,  and  it  was  tacitly  agreed  that 
Thackeray  in  the  United  States  should  have  his 
chance. 

343 


344    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 

'*The  passage  is  nothing  now  it  is  over,"  Thackeray, 
on  his  arrival  at  Boston  on  a  frosty  morning,  said  to 
Fields,  who  at  once  carried  him  off  to  dinner,  where 
a  joke  was  played  upon  him.  ''  In  London,"  Fields 
has  related,  "Thackeray  had  been  very  curious  in  his 
enquiries  about  American  oysters,  as  marvellous  stories, 
which  he  did  not  believe,  had  been  told  him  of  their 
great  size.  We  apologised — although  we  had  taken 
care  that  the  largest  specimen  to  be  procured  should 
startle  his  unwonted  vision  when  he  came  to  the  table 
— for  what  we  called  the  extreme  smallness  of  the 
oysters,  promising  that  we  would  do  better  next  time. 
Six  Falstaffian  bivalves  lay  before  him  in  their  shells. 
I  noticed  he  gazed  at  them  anxiously,  with  fork  up- 
raised ;  then  he  whispered  to  me  with  a  look  of 
anguish,  'How  shall  I  do  it?'  I  described  to  him  the 
simple  process  by  which  the  free-born  citizens  of 
America  were  accustomed  to  accomplish  such  a  task. 
He  seemed  satisfied  that  the  thing  was  feasible, 
selected  the  smallest  one  in  the  half-dozen  (rejecting 
a  large  one,  '  because,'  he  said,  '  it  resembled  the  High 
Priest's  servant's  ear  that  Peter  cut  off'),  and  then 
bowed  his  head  as  if  he  were  saying  grace.  All  eyes 
were  upon  him  to  watch  the  effect  of  a  new  sensation 
in  the  person  of  a  great  British  Author.  Opening  his 
mouth  very  wide,  he  struggled  for  a  minute,  and  then 
all  was  over.  I  shall  never  forget  the  comic  look  of 
despair  he  cast  upon  the  other  five  over-occupied 
shells.  I  broke  the  perfect  stillness  by  asking  him 
how  he  felt.  'Profoundly  grateful,'  he  gasped,  'and 
as  if  I  had  swallowed  a  little  baby.' "  ^ 

^  J.  T.  Fields  :   Yesterdays  with  Authors. 


i8S3]  IN    THE  UNITED   STATES  345 

Thackeray  had  been  advised  to  open  his  tour  in 
New  York,  and  he  repaired  to  that  city  on  Novem- 
ber 16,  being  amused  in  the  train  by  *'a  rosy- 
cheeked  little  peripatetic  book-merchant"  crying 
"Thackeray's  Works!"  from  whom  he  bought  ''A 
Shabby  Genteel  Story "  to  read  on  the  journey. 
Prescott  was  his  first  visitor  in  New  York.  "The 
historian  is  delightful,"  he  wrote  to  English  friends  ; 
adding  that  society  at  New  York  was  like  that  of 
"a  rich  cathedral  -  town  in  England  —  grave  and 
decorous,  and  very  pleasant  and  well-read."  One 
evening  he  heard  Bancroft  lecture  before  the  New 
York  Historical  Society ;  and  on  another  he  was 
initiated  into  the  mysteries  of  spirit-rapping  and 
table-turning  at  a  stance  conducted  by  the  notorious 
Home.  He  met  Horace  Greeley,  the  proprietor  of 
the  Daily  Tribune^  in  the  columns  of  which  he  had 
been  welcomed  to  the  United  States  by  Henry  James, 
father  of  the  novelist. 

The  impartiality  with  which  the  United  States  had 
determined  to  receive  Thackeray  was,  before  a  week 
was  over,  turned  into  a  great  enthusiasm.  "The 
popular  Thackeray-theory  before  his  arrival  was  ot 
a  severe  satirist  who  concealed  scalpels  in  his  sleeves 
and  carried  probes  in  his  waistcoat  pocket ;  a  wearer 
of  masks  ;  a  scoffer  and  sneerer  and  general  infidel  of 
all  high  aim  and  noble  character,"  said  a  writer  in 
Putnam's  Monthly  Magazine  for  June  1853.  "Cer- 
tainly we  are  justified  in  saying  that  his  presence 
among  us  quite  corrected  this  idea.  We  welcomed  a 
friendly,  genial  man  ;  not  at  all  convinced  that  speech 
is   heaven's   first  law,   but  willing   to  be  silent  when 


"^ 


346    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 

there  was  nothing  to  say — who  decidedly  refused  to  be 
lionised,  not  by  sulking,  but  by  stepping  off  the 
pedestal  and  challenging  the  common  sympathies  of 
all  he  met.  .  .  .  We  conceive  .  .  .  the  chief  merit 
of  Thackeray's  visit  to  be  that  he  convinced  us  of  his 
intellectual  integrity,  he  showed  us  how  impossible  it 
is  for  him  to  see  the  world  and  describe  it  other  than 
he  does.  He  does  not  profess  cynicism,  nor  satirise 
society  with  malice,  and  his  interests  are  human  and 
concrete,  not  abstract." 

Within  a  few  days  of  his  arrival  in  New  York 
Thackeray  was  being  feted  as  he  had  never  been  before, 
and  luncheons,  dinners  and  suppers  in  his  honour  were 
so  numerous  that  he  laughingly  spoke  of  his  visit  as 
*'one  unbroken  round  of  indigestion."  He  was  the 
most  popular  man  in  the  city  :  to  shake  hands  with 
him  even  was  regarded  as  a  pleasure,  to  converse  with 
him  an  honour.  Judging  from  the  innumerable  records 
of  Thackeray  in  America,^  nearly  everyone  who  was 
with  him  for  half  an  hour  must  have  written  down  his 
impressions  ;  and  to  this  day  those  surviving  men  and 
women  who  knew  him  cherish  his  memory.  *'For 
years  I  was  constantly  hearing  gossip  about  Thackeray 
from  those  who  had  met  him  during  his  visits  to  us," 
the  present  American  Ambassador  to  this  country  (the 
Hon.  Whitelaw  Reid)  recently  remarked  in  the  course 
of  his  speech  when  he  was  in  the  chair  of  the  English 
Titmarsh  Club,  of  which  he  is  a  member.^      "Their 

1  Many  of  these  records  have  been  collected  by  General  James  Grant 
Wilson,  and  printed  in  his  interesting  volume  on  "Thackeray  in  the 
United  States." 

^  This  speech  was  subsequently  printed  as  an  Introduction  to  the 
edition  of  Vanity  Fair  in  "  Everyman's  Library." 


i853]  HIS   POPULARITY  347 

accounts  all  ran  one  way.  They  admired  his  talk  and 
they  loved  him.  They  pictured  him  as  big,  hearty, 
and  very  human.  They  didn't  find  him  playing  the 
lion  the  least  little  bit.  .  .  .  They  pointed  out  the 
corner  in  the  Century  Club  where  he  used  to  sit  ex- 
changing literary  chat,  or,  in  Yankee,  parlance,  'swap- 
ping stories,'  with  a  group  of  club  men  about  him. 
They  could  tell  you  years  afterwards  what  had  been 
Thackeray's  favourite  chair,  and  some  had  even  been 
so  observant  of  the  least  trifles  about  the  great  man  as 
to  know  what  particular  concoction  in  a  club  tumbler 
had  been  his  favourite  '  night-cap.'  " 

It  is  not  surprising  that,  when  the  distrust  of 
him  had  vanished,  Thackeray  should  have  become 
immensely  popular.  Long  before  there  was  any 
thought  of  his  visiting  the  United  States,  his  writings 
were  better  known,  and  more  widely  appreciated 
than  in  his  own  country.  In  England  he  only 
''arrived"  with  "Vanity  Fair,"  in  America  his 
"Yellowplush  Correspondence" and  "Major  Gahagan" 
had  attracted  attention  and  his  career  had  been  followed 
with  interest  by  a  considerable  public  from  this  time 
forth.  The  "Yellowplush  Correspondence,"  which 
appeared  in  Eraser's  Magazine  in  1837  s-"^  1838,  and 
"  Major  Gahagan,"  which  was  printed  in  the  Nexi) 
Monthly  Magazine  in  the  same  years,  were  issued  at 
once  in  book-form  in  America,  though  here  they  were 
not  collected  until  1841 ;  and  other  of  his  works,  includ- 
ing "Stubbs's  Calendar",  "The  Irish  Sketch  Book" 
and  "From  Cornhill  to  Cairo,"  were  pirated  immedi- 
ately after  publication.  "Jeames's  Diary,"  which 
was  not  issued  in  book-form  in   England  until   1856, 


348    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 

was  at  once  collected  there  ;  and  similar  honours  of 
publication  earlier  than  in  the  country  of  their  origin 
were  accorded  to  ''The  Great  Hoggarty  Diamond" 
and,  indeed,  to  all  the  works  prior  to  "Vanity  Fair." 
"  Vanity  Fair  ",  "  Pendennis  "  and  "  Esmond  "  were  to 
be  had  in  America  almost  as  soon  as  in  London.  This, 
no  doubt,  is  directly  attributable  to  the  fact  that  in  the 
United  States  there  was  then  no  protection  for  Eng- 
lish authors  ;  and,  as  there  was  no  royalty  to  pay, 
their  works  could  be  produced  more  cheaply,  and  so 
made  more  accessible  to  the  public.  Some  publishers, 
however,  took  the  honourable  course  of  paying 
Thackeray  a  fee ;  and  among  these,  to  its  credit, 
may  be  mentioned  the  great  house  of  Harper,  which 
paid  respectively  ;^I50,  ;^ioo,  and  ;^48o  for  the  advance 
sheets  of  "The  Newcomes",  "Esmond"  and  "The 
Virginians."  Putnams,  too,  would  willingly  have  done 
the  right  thing  by  him,  but  their  offer  could  not  be 
entertained. 

Messrs.  Harpers,  who  have  published  my  larger 
books  and  have  paid  my  London  publisher  for  my 
last  work,  have  offered  me  a  sum  of  money  for  the 
republication  of  my  lectures,  and  all  things  con- 
sidered, I  think  it  is  best  that  I  should  accept  their 
liberal  proposal.  I  thank  you  very  much  for  your 
generous  offer  ;  and  for  my  own  sake,  as  well  as 
that  of  my  literary  brethren  in  England,  I  am  sin- 
cerely rejoiced  to  find  how  very  kindly  the  American 
publishers  are  disposed  to  us.  .  .  ^ 

Thackeray,  who  liked  money  as  well  as  most  men, 
was  annoyed  that  piracy  was  possible,  but,  since  noth- 

^  Puinaffi's  Magazine,  Vol.  IV,  p.  68 1. 


1853]  AMERICAN  "PIRATES"  349 

ing  he  could  do  would  alter  the  state  of  things,  he  put 
a  good  face  on  it. 

That  extreme  liberality  with  which  American  pub- 
lishers have  printed  the  works  of  English  authors 
has  had  at  least  this  beneficial  result  for  us — that  our 
names  and  writings  are  known  by  multitudes  using 
our  common  mother  tongue,  who  never  had  heard 
of  us  or  our  books,  but  for  the  speculators  who  have 
sent  them  all  over  this  continent. 

It  is,  of  course,  not  unnatural  for  the  English 
writer  to  hope  that  some  day  he  may  share  a  portion 
of  the  profits  which  his  works  bring  at  present  to 
the  persons  who  vend  them  in  this  country  ;  and  I 
am  bound  gratefully  to  say  myself  that  since  my 
arrival  here  I  have  met  with  several  publishing 
houses  who  are  willing  to  acknowledge  our  little 
claim  to  participate  in  the  advantages  arising  out  of 
our  books ;  and  the  present  writer,  having  long 
since  ascertained  that  a  portion  of  a  loaf  is  more 
satisfactory  than  no  bread  at  all,  gratefully  accepts 
and  acknowledges  several  slices  which  the  book- 
purveyors  in  this  city  have  proffered  to  him  of  their 
own  free-will. 

If  we  are  not  paid  in  full  and  in  specie  as  yet, 
English  writers  surely  ought  to  be  thankful  for  the 
very  great  kindness  and  friendliness  with  which  the 
American  public  receives  them ;  and  if  we  hope  some 
day  that  measures  may  pass  here  to  legalise  our  right 
to  profit  a  little  by  the  commodities  which  we  invent 
and  in  which  we  deal,  I,  for  one,  can  cheerfully  say 
that  the  goodwill  towards  us  from  publishers  and 
public  is  undoubted,  and  wait  for  still  better  times 
with  perfect  confidence  and  good-humour.^ 

If  the  Americans  were  delighted  with  Thackeray,  he 
in  his  turn  was  most  agreeably  astonished.  "You 
know  what  a  virtue-proud  people  we  English  are.    We 

1  Preface  to  Appleton's  edition  oi  Mr.  Bro-wn's  Letters,  1853. 


350    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 

think  we  have  got  it  all  to  ourselves,"  he  replied  to  the 
Hon.  William  B.  Reed  (sometime  the  United  States 
Minister  to  China),  who  had  asked  for  his  candid 
opinion  of  the  United  States.  "Now  that  which 
most  impresses  me  here  is,  that  I  find  homes  as  pure  as 
ours,  firesides  like  ours,  domestic  virtues  as  gentle  ; 
the  English  language,  though  the  accent  be  a  little 
different,  with  its  homelike  melody  ;  and  the  Common 
Prayer  Book  in  your  families.  I  am  more  struck  by 
pleasant  resemblances  than  anything  else."  ^ 

You  are  more  tender-hearted,  romantic,  senti- 
mental, than  we  are  [he  wrote  later  to  Reed].  I 
keep  on  telling  this  to  our  fine  people  here,  and 
have  so  belaboured  your  country  with  praise  in 
private  that  I  sometimes  think  I  go  too  far.  I  keep 
back  some  of  the  truth,  but  the  great  point  to  ding 
into  the  ears  of  the  great  stupid  virtue-proud  English 
public  is,  that  there  are  folks  as  good  as  they  in 
America.  That's  where  Mrs.  Stowe's  book  has  done 
harm,  by  inflaming  us  with  an  idea  of  our  own 
superior  virtue  in  freeing  our  blacks,  whereas  you 
keep  yours.  Comparisons  are  always  odorous,  Mrs. 
Malaprop  says.^ 

There  was  one  thing,  however,  to  which  Thackeray 
strongly  objected :  the  personal  journalism,  then 
happily  almost  unknown  in  England,  but  already 
rampant  in  the  United  States.  He  could  not  escape 
the  reporters,  and  had  to  bear  the  trial  as  good- 
humouredly  as  possible  :  he  had  his  tit-for-tat  with 
them  by  satirising  the  American  newspapers  in  an 
article  entitled  "Mr.  Thackeray  in  the  United  States," 
which  appeared  in  Eraser's  Magazine^  January  1853. 

^  W.  B.  Reed:  Haud  hnmemor — Thackeray  in  the  United  States. 
2  Ibid. 


'^53]  AN   AMUSING   SKIT  351 

You  cannot  help  perceiving  that  the  Hon  in 
America  is  public  property  and  confiscate  to  the 
common  weal.  They  trim  the  creature's  nails,  they 
cut  the  hair  off  his  mane  and  tail  (which  is  distributed 
or  sold  to  his  admirers),  and  they  draw  his  teeth, 
which  are  frequently  preserved  with  much  the  same 
care  as  you  keep  any  memorable  grinder  whose 
presence  has  been  agony  and  departure  delight. 

Bear-leading  is  not  so  in  vogue  across  the  Atlantic 
as  at  your  home  in  England  ;  but  lion-leading  is 
infinitely  more  in  fashion. 

Some  learned  man  is  appointed  Androcles  to  the 
new  arrival.  One  of  the  familiars  of  the  press  is 
despatched  to  attend  the  latest  attraction,  and  by  this 
reflecting  medium  the  lion  is  perpetually  presented 
to  the  popular  gaze.  The  guest's  most  secret  self 
is  exposed  by  his  host.  Every  action,  every  word, 
every  gesture,  is  preserved  and  proclaimed — a  sigh, 
a  nod,  a  groan,  a  sneeze,  a  cough,  or  a  wink,  is  each 
written  down  by  this  recording  minister,  who  blots 
out  nothing.  No  tabula  rasa  with  him.  The  por- 
trait is  limned  with  the  fidelity  of  Parrhasius,  and 
filled  up  with  the  minuteness  of  the  Daguerre  pro- 
cess itself.  No  blood-hound  or  Bow-street  officer 
can  be  keener  or  more  exact  on  the  trail  than  this 
irresistible  and  unavoidable  spy.  'Tis  in  Austria 
they  calotype  criminals  ;  in  the  far  West  the  public 
press  prints  the  identity  of  each  notorious  visitor  to 
its  shores. 

The  article  was  anonymous,  but  it  was  almost  imme- 
diately recognised  as  from  his  pen.  It  caused  as  much 
amusement  in  America  as  in  England,  and  if  in  the 
former  country  some  sensitive  persons  felt  a  touch  of 
annoyance,  it  was  removed  when  they  came  to  the  last 
page,  where  Thackeray  printed  the  tribute  to  this  land 
which  he  had  delivered  at  the  conclusion  of  the  last 
lecture  of  the  first  course  of  "  The  English  Humourists 
of  the  Eighteenth  Century." 


352    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 

In  England  it  was  my  custcm  after  the  delivery  of 
these  lectures  to  point  such  a  moral  as  seemed  to 
befit  the  country  I  lived  in,  and  to  protest  against  an 
outcry,  which  some  brother  authors  of  mine  most 
imprudently  and  unjustly  raise,  when  they  say  that 
our  profession  is  neglected  and  its  professors  held  in 
light  esteem.  Speaking  in  this  country,  I  would  say 
that  such  a  complaint  could  not  only  not  be  advanced, 
but  could  not  even  be  understood  here,  where  your 
men  of  letters  take  their  manly  share  in  public  life  ; 
whence  Everett  goes  as  Minister  to  Washington, 
and  Irving  and  Bancroft  to  represent  the  republic  in 
the  old  country.  And  if  to  English  authors  the 
English  public  is,  as  I  believe,  kind  and  just  in  the 
main,  can  any  of  us  say,  will  any  who  visit  your 
country  not  proudly  and  gratefully  own,  with  what  a 
cordial  and  generous  greeting  you  receive  us?  I  look 
round  on  this  great  company,  I  think  of  my  gallant 
young  patrons  of  the  Mercantile  Literary  Association, 
as  whose  servant  I  appear  before  you  ;  and  of  the 
kind  hands  stretched  out  to  welcome  me  by  men 
famous  in  letters,  and  honoured  in  our  country  as  in 
their  own,  and  I  thank  you  and  them  for  a  most 
kindly  greeting  and  a  most  generous  hospitality.  At 
home,  and  amongst  his  own  people,  it  scarce  be- 
comes an  English  writer  to  speak  of  himself,  his 
public  estimation  must  depend  upon  his  works  ;  his 
private  esteem  on  his  character,  and  on  his  life.  But 
here  among  friends  newly  found,  I  ask  leave  to  say 
that  I  am  thankful  ;  and  I  think  with  a  grateful  heart 
of  those  I  leave  behind  meat  home,  who  will  be  proud 
of  the  welcome  you  hold  out  to  me,  and  will  benefit, 
please  God,  when  my  days  of  work  are  over,  by  the 
kindness  which  you  show  to  their  father. 

Thackeray  in  the  United  States  found  many  congenial 
companions,  he  met  Washington  Irving,  Prescott, 
Ticknor,  and  Longfellow,  and  struck  up  an  intimacy 
with  William  B.  Reed  and  the  Baxter  family,  with 
whom  he  corresponded  during  the  rest  of  his  life.    "  By 


i853]  IN    NEW    YORK  353 

jove  !  how  kind  you  all  were  to  me,"  he  wrote  to  Reed. 
**  How  I  like  people  and  want  to  see  'em  again."  Cer- 
tainly everybody  conspired  to  make  his  tour  agreeable. 

The  business  arrangements  for  the  lecturing  were 
made  so  far  as  possible  without  troubling  him  with 
details  of  the  negotiations,  and  the  tour  was  carried  out 
under  the  auspices  of  the  Mercantile  Literary  Associa- 
tion, of  which  institution  the  president  was  Millard  L. 
Felt.  The  first  lecture  was  delivered  on  the  evening  of 
November  19,  in  the  Church  of  the  Unity,  on  the  east 
side  of  Broadway,  near  Prince's  Street,  a  Unitarian 
chapel  of  which  Dr.  Chapin  (who  had  recently  succeeded 
the  Rev.  Henry  Bellows)  was  the  pastor.  Thackeray 
had  to  read  from  a  rostrum  fronting  the  pulpit,  and  he 
pretended  not  to  be  at  his  ease  until  he  received  the 
assurance  that  the  organ  would  not  accompany  his 
utterances.  Twelve  hundred  people  were  assembled, 
and  these  included  such  literary  celebrities  as  Ticknor, 
Bancroft,  Bryant,  and  Greeley.  "  He  is  a  stout, 
healthful,  broad-shouldered  specimen  of  a  man,  with 
cropped  greyish  hair  and  bluish-grey  eyes,  peering 
very  strongly  through  a  pair  of  spectacles  that  have  a 
very  satiric  focus,"  he  was  sketched  by  one  of  the 
audience.  "He  seems  to  stand  strongly  on  his  own 
feet,  as  if  he  would  not  be  very  easily  blown  about  or 
upset  either  by  praise  or  pugilists — a  man  who  scents 
all  shams  or  rumours,  straightening  them  between  his 
thumb  and  finger  as  he  would  a  pinch  of  snuff." 

All  the  tickets  for  the  first  course  had  been  sold  before 

he  landed  ;  and,  thus  encouraged,  the  organisers  had 

arranged  a  second  course  to  begin  on  December  6.    So 

successful  was  this,  too,  and  the  c  urse  delivered  at 

I. — 2  A 


354  WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 
Brooklyn,  that  before  leaving  New  York,  Thackeray 
placed  to  his  credit  at  his  bankers  the  sum  of  five 
thousand  dollars.  A  minimum  estimate  of  the  lecturer's 
receipts  during  the  first  American  tour  is  ^^^2500  ;  but  it 
is  probable  that  double  the  amount  was  realised. 

From  Brooklyn,  where  he  met  the  great  Barnum, 
who  wanted  him  to  write  something  in  the  first  number 
of  a  paper  in  imitation  of  the  Illustrated  London  News, 
just  about  to  make  its  appearance,  Thackeray  went  to 
Boston.  "I  remember,"  Fields  has  recorded  of  the 
first  reading  at  the  great  Melodeon  Music  Hall  in  that 
city,  **his  uproarious  shouting  and  dancing  when  he 
was  told  that  the  tickets  to  his  first  course  of  lectures 
were  all  sold  ;  and  when  we  rode  together  from  his 
hotel  to  the  lecture-hall,  he  insisted  on  thrusting  both 
his  long  legs  out  of  the  carriage  window,  in  deference, 
as  he  said,  to  his  magnanimous  ticket-holders."^ 

'*  At  Boston  there  is  very  good  literary  society 
indeed,"  he  remarked  ;  and  indeed  the  fact  must  have 
been  very  apparent  to  him  when  he  saw  in  his  first 
night's  audience  the  faces  of  Longfellow,  Whittier, 
Emerson,  Holmes,  Prescott,  and  Ticknor.  He  supped 
with  Longfellow  ;  and  went  to  Cambridge  to  see  Lowell 
who  promised:  **  You  shall  either  be  carried  back  to 
Boston,  or  spend  the  night  with  us."  He  became 
intimate  with  Ticknor,  especially  on  his  second  visit. 
He  invited  himself  to  eat  a  Christmas  dinner  with  the 
historian  and  his  family ;  and  on  New  Year's  eve 
watched  the  New  Year  in  by  their  fireside,  rising  on 
the  stroke  of  twelve,  with  tears  in  his  eyes,  to  exclaim  : 
"God  bless  my  girls,  and  all  who  are  kind  to  them." 

1  J.  T.  Fields  :  Yesterdays  with  Authors. 


i8s3]  IN   PHILADELPHIA,   ETC.  355 

That  prince  among  humorists,  Oliver  Wendell 
Holmes,  naturally  attracted  him.  "  A  dear  little  fellow, 
a  true  poet,"  he  said.  "  I  told  him  how  much  I  liked 
his  verses,  and  what  do  you  think  he  did?  His  eyes 
began  to  water.  Well,  it's  a  comfort  to  have  given 
pleasure  to  that  kind  soul." 

After  visiting  Philadelphia  and  Baltimore,  Thackeray 
went  to  Washington,  where  he  was  the  guest  of  the 
British  Minister,  Mr.  (afterwards  Sir  John)  Crampton, 
"most  hospitable  of  envoys,"  Thackeray  dubbed  him, 
and  described  his  stay  in  that  city  as  "an  interminable 
succession  of  balls,  parties,  and  banquets."  He  dined 
with  President  Filmore,  and  that  personage  came  to  his 
lecture  in  company  with  General  Pierce,  the  President- 
Elect.  "Two  Kings  of  Brentford  smelling  at  one 
rose,"  Washington  Irving  murmured  to  the  lecturer  as 
they  appeared.  In  one  of  the  "  Snob  Papers"  Thack- 
eray said  the  height  of  rapture  must  be  to  walk  down 
Pall  Mall  arm-in-arm  with  a  couple  of  dukes  :  lecturing 
before  two  Presidents  was  surely  only  one  degree  less 
magnificent. 

From  Washington  Thackeray  returned  to  New  York 
to  give  a  lecture  on  January  31,  in  the  Church  of  the 
Messiah,  for  the  benefit  of  a  Sewing  Society  of  a  Uni- 
tarian Church,  in  which  some  of  his  friends  were  inter- 
ested. He  composed  for  the  occasion  a  special  discourse 
on  "  Charity  and  Humour,"  in  which  he  compared  the 
humorists  of  the  eighteenth  with  their  successors  of  the 
nineteenth  century. 

Charleston  was  reached,  after  many  other  i)laces 
had  been  visited,  on  March  8;  and  three  discourses 
were    read   in    the    Hibernian    Hall.      Thackeray    met 


356    WILLIAM  MAKEPEACE  THACKERAY  [1852- 

Professor  Agassiz,  who  was  also  there  to  lecture:  "a 
delightful  bonhomrnious  person,  as  frank  and  unpre- 
tending as  he  is  learned  and  illustrious  in  his  own 
branch."  Savannah  followed,  where  he  was  the  guest 
of  Andrew  Low,  the  British  Consul  ;  but  the  lectures 
were  not  a  financial  success,  and  the  attendance  was 
smaller  than  anywhere  else  on  the  tour,  with  the  ex- 
ception perhaps  of  Pittsburg.  In  April  he  was  back 
at  the  Clarendon  Hotel,  New  York.  He  went  for  a 
couple  of  days  to  Albany ;  and  intended  to  go  to 
Canada — indeed,  his  appearance  at  Montreal  was  an- 
nounced— but  he  never  crossed  the  border. 

Long  before  the  tour  was  over  Thackeray  was 
heartily  sick  of  it  and  the  attendant  publicity.  Only 
the  thought  of  the  benefit  that  was  accruing  to  his 
children  enabled  him  to  continue  so  long.  "Even 
when  I  am  reading  my  lectures,  I  often  think  to  myself 
'  What  a  humbug  you  are,  and  I  wonder  people  don't 
find  you  out,'  "  he  exclaimed  one  day  to  Bayard  Taylor  ; 
and  he  wrote  to  Mrs.  Elliot  to  say  how  much  he 
desired  a  week's  holiday  without  his  "  dem'd  lecture- 
box."  Suddenly  he  made  up  his  mind  he  must  return. 
On  the  morning  of  April  20  he  astonished  Eyre  Crowe, 
who  had  arranged  for  him  to  visit  several  towns  in  the 
middle  and  western  states,  by  saying  :  "I  see  there's 
a  Cunarder  going  this  morning.  I'll  go  down  to  Wall 
Street  to  see  whether  I  can  secure  berths  in  her."  His 
quest  was  successful.  He  scribbled  on  a  card : 
''Good-bye,  Fields;  good-bye,  Mrs.  Fields;  God  bless 
everybody,  says  W.M.T." — there  was  no  time  for  per- 
sonal farewells — hurried  down  Broadway,  got  into  a 
boat  on  the  east  river,  reached  the  Europa  to  be  greeted 


i8S3]  RETURNS   TO   ENGLAND  357 

with  the  cry,  "Hurry  up — she's  starting ! " and  landed  at 
Liverpool  almost  exactly  six  months  after  his  departure. 
The  story  of  his  arrival  at  his  house  has  been  charm- 
ingly told  by  his  eldest  daughter  in  the  following  words : 
"When  the  long  summer  and  winter  were  over,  and 
the  still  longer  spring,  suddenly  one  day  we  heard  he 
was  coming  back  much  sooner  than  he  had  expected. 
I  believe  he  saw  a  steamer  starting  for  home  and  could 
stand  it  no  longer,  and  then  and  there  came  off.  I  can 
still  remember  sitting  with  my  grandparents,  expecting 
his  return.  My  sister  and  I  sat  on  the  red  sofa  in  the 
little  study,  and  shortly  before  the  time  we  had  calcu- 
lated he  might  arrive  came  a  little  ring  at  the  front 
door-bell.  My  grandmother  broke  down  ;  my  sister 
and  I  rushed  to  the  front  door,  only  we  were  so  afraid 
that  it  might  not  be  he  that  we  did  not  dare  to  open  it, 
and  there  we  stood  until  a  second  and  much  louder 
ring  brought  us  to  our  senses.  '  Why  didn't  you  open 
the  door?'  said  my  father,  stepping  in,  looking  well, 
broad,  and  upright,  laughing.  In  a  moment  he  had 
never  been  away  at  all."^ 

1  Chapters  from  some  Memoirs,  p.  171. 


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